Winnie Wong is founder of Assisted Outing, an online platform that enables people with disabilities to go on bespoke private outings by connecting them with a local assistant at a travel destination.
World Mental Health Day, held last month on Wednesday 10 October, seeks to support, advocate and increase awareness around the topic of mental health. Did you know that 1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental illness, yet only recently has the subject of mental health become an openly talked about subject between family, friends and colleagues? More importantly, depression is actually the most common secondary illness associated with people with disabilities and chronic illness.
To coincide with World Mental Health Day, the Federal Government announced the addition of a psycho-social stream for the NDIS. The stream aims to support a further 64,000 Australians with psycho-social disabilities, a number which will add to the estimated 460,000 Australians who will be supported by the NDIS by 2020. This initial NDIS mental health reform followed recommendations from Mental Health Australia.
Approximately 690,000 Australians live with a severe mental illness, a number which dwarfs the number of those that will be supported by this new stream. While there is still huge scope for further inclusion and supports, this marks an important first step for the advocacy and assistance of those Australians living with psycho-social disabilities.
We believe emotional well-being is very important in combating mental illness and depression. By being active and maintaining a good social life, we can tackle the problem at its roots. At Assisted Outing, we encourage people with needs to go out and have fun. For instance, we do this by connecting them with a local assistant at the travel destination. The assistant will plan a bespoke outing for the client and be their guide for duration of the outing. Community access can make a big difference.
Emotional well-being and community access
Community access has come a long way here in Australia. Before you go out, you can always plan ahead by researching the disability access map of the places you are visiting. Most councils will have a disability or mobility map on their website which you can access. Some attractions also offer their own maps or information regarding accessibility.
Access Ability Australia offers free Access Keys, which are highly customised accessibility guides, to many venues around the country. The guide includes details about a venue’s layout, parking, customer service/ticketing, amenities, entry and exit points as well as safety and accessibility features. They feature professional photographs contextualised with visitor experiences.
There are also many accessible activities which are suitable for people of all abilities, from shopping centres, museums, exhibitions to even bush walking. For example, Parks Victoria is organising a free Trailer Rider event on 29th November for people in wheelchairs at the Grants Picnic Ground. Participants are invited to trial a Trail Rider all-terrain wheelchair to explore selected walking trails in the beautiful Sherbrooke forest.
Assisting Outing discounts
There are many places in Australia that offer discount to people with disabilities, and many of them accepts the Companion Card. At Assisted Outing, we work very hard to get further discounts for our valued customers so that they can maintain an happy social life. One of our generous sponsors, Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, is offering an exclusive discount (up to 40% off) that is only available to our members.
In response, we have designed an outing that would allow our customer to join their assistant on a fun outing at the Melbourne Star. The Melbourne Star is the only giant observation wheel in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only four in the world. In this outing, our customer will get to experience Melbourne in a whole new way and feel like they are on top of the world as the Star glides on its gentle arc through the sky. Our customer will also receive an audio commentary that will give them an introduction to the history and sights below. The outing cost is inclusive of an admission ticket to the Melbourne Star and a 2-3 hour guided tour around Docklands by the assistant.
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