Working for social inclusion

Sunday Mail Adelaide

A new charter offers new opportunities.

Autism SA has launched a new charter to promote social and workplace inclusion for people on the autism spectrum.

The Autism Friendly Charter was created in response to an identified need from individuals on the spectrum, and organisations in the SA community, that mainstream organisations required support to offer more participation and inclusion to individuals with autism.

The Charter was created with an NDIS information, linkages and capacity building (ILC) National Readiness Grant of $170,000 and launched in 2016.Those who sign up to it receive support and training from Autism SA to help them become more autism-friendly.

“The NDIS is about … making our community more inclusive and accessible for people with disability, which is why the National Disability Insurance Agency supported the development of the Autism Friendly Charter in 2015-16,” says Jo Collins, NDIA acting regional manager for SA. Through the Charter, Autism SA aims to train businesses and recreational organisations in autism-friendly environments to promote social inclusion.

“We’re training so that the staff involved understand and have better awareness about individuals on the spectrum, so they’re able to communicate better with them and meet their needs,” says Autism SA chief executive Jenny Karavolos. With the number of people diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum increasing – according to data released in 2015, an estimated 164,000 Australians are thought to be on the spectrum – there has never been a greater need to ensure they are not shut out of society.

“Autism is a significantly growing disability,” says Karavolos.”With the NDIS indicating that 28 per cent of participants nationally are on the spectrum, then you go, ‘OK, something needs to be done so that there’s inclusion and participation’.”

But the Charter doesn’t just benefit those on the autism spectrum; there are also gains for those industries that sign up.

“Organisations, businesses and recreational facilities are all about attracting people. When you’ve got 164,000 Australians with autism, they want to grocery shop, they want to spend and be included. There is economic benefit,” Karavolos explains. “It’s in the best interests of everyone to tap into that, from a business, social and recreational point of view. It’s harnessing more diversity.”

The State Government will extend the South Australian Transport Subsidy Scheme (SATSS) for National Disability Insurance Scheme participants following concerns that NDIS packages are not providing sufficient support for the transport needs of people with disability.

The concerns were raised by MP Kelly Vincent, who said the issue had “caused a great deal of anxiety for many people”. South Australians with disabilities rely heavily on accessible, affordable transport to access work, study, jobseeking and medical appointments, and so it is important they are not put at a transport cost disadvantage.

Last month, the State Government decided to extend the SATSS program to mid-2019 to all eligible members, even if they have transitioned to the NDIS.

“Finding affordable and accessible transport services can be a source of disadvantage for people with disabilities,” Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan said at the time.

“SATSS vouchers provide a critical subsidy for people who need to use taxis … This two year extension is aimed at ensuring that no one is disadvantaged during the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”