Imagine More believes in a strong, connected community where individuals with a disability hold socially valued roles, have strong relationships and are constantly exploring what is possible. Imagine More effects change by fostering the courage, capacity and autonomy of families and communities to strengthen typical lives, roles and relationships for people with a disability.

Over the past few years we have moved into a new landscape with the advent of individualised funding through the NDIS, and ‘Choice’ and ‘Control’ are now the buzzwords around which our funding decisions are built. However, it is good to consider what these words truly mean, and how we can maximise NDIS funding to complement a typical life in the community.

The Good Life

When asked what would constitute The Good Things of Life (Wolfensberger, 1995), most people give similar answers – having a home of one’s own, meaningful employment, relationships, opportunities for learning and personal growth. Having a sense of belonging, being valued and appreciated for who you are, your unique strengths and contributions, and having a purpose in life are also among the key things most of us would consider essential to living a rich and fulfilling life.

Why should this be any different for a person with disability?

The reality of many people with disability is that they are isolated and separate from the wider community. Some people make preconceived judgements based on someone’s disability, which delegates that person a life path that is different and isolated from the rest of the community, where low expectations lead to untapped potential and the benefits of being valued and belonging are withheld.

Having individualised funding, with ‘Choice’ and ‘Control’, is not a guarantee of a Good Life for a person with disability. It’s not about the money, but how you spend it that counts! It is important, when we plan for the NDIS, to first step back and think about how to plan for a Good Life and access the richness of life opportunities that this would entail.

Maximising choice and control

Having a clear vision is a key enabler for achieving a Good Life. While most of us have goals and aspirations around where we want to be and what we want to achieve in life, for people with disability this is all the more important, in order to challenge assumptions and avoid the danger of other people or services dictating what that person’s future will be.

When thinking about a vision for a person with disability, it is helpful to think about what a typical life looks like for their same-aged peers without a disability. Especially in the early years, it is easy for children with a disability to be directed to segregated pathways as parents embark on early intervention, therapy, and other ‘special’ programs.

While these may be important to complement a child’s development, there is the risk that children then miss out on typical life opportunities that are available to their peers, such as going to their neighbourhood school and making friends, participating in after-school sports activities, enjoying time with family and more.

Another thing that is useful to think about is what kind of roles a person with disability can hold in their communities. It is generally the roles in our lives that give us purpose, such as being a student, neighbour, employee, music-lover, sister or brother. These roles enable people to make a contribution to their communities and feel valued and respected.

What’s your vision?

When NDIS-funded supports are self-directed with the aim of achieving the Vision of a Good Life and supporting a person with disability to hold valued roles in the community, it can truly transform the lives of everyone involved.

Imagine More’s National Inclusion Conference, to be held in Canberra on the 4th and 5th of May this year, will explore these themes further, with opportunities to hear from local, national and international speakers sharing stories and approaches of how a clear vision and self-direction can lead to meaningful and inclusive lives for people with disabilities. This is a conference with a difference, where there will be time for questions, opportunity to workshop/test ideas and gain tips and strategies to enable you to leave knowing what your next step will be.

For more information visit: http://imaginemore.org.au/conference-2/

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