Ausnew Home Care | Australians living with disabilities find joy

Australians living with disabilities find joy, independence and connection despite the pandemic

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The pandemic has brought with it different challenges for everyone. But for some Australians with a disability, it's been a chance to find joy, independence and new passions.

Cancer survivor James Norquay honed his passion for photography, despite the fact he "can't see any of my surroundings whatsoever".

Mr Norquay, 21, is legally blind after surviving brain cancer 10 years ago. 

Initially, photography was a tool to assist with his sight impairment as it allowed him to zoom in on an image — such as bus timetable or menu — and observe detail he usually could not see.

But during downtime throughout the pandemic he realised what was once a necessity, is now a lifelong passion.

"When I'm looking through my camera I go from having 2 per cent sight to 101 per cent vision," he said.

Two teen girls sitting on a sand dune with golden light behind them. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
"I love really rich, vibrant colours for sunrise and sunsets," Mr Norquay says.(Instagram: norquaydesigns_raw_vision)

"I'm so grateful for where I am now and I wouldn't change the journey I've gone down because I don't know where I'd be and probably wouldn't be in such a bright place like where I am now."

'I thought I was too disabled to live by myself'

Kristie McCarthy celebrated a year of independent living during Sydney's 2021 lockdown.

It was a "massive" achievement the 39-year-old never thought would be possible.

Woman in a motorised wheelchair smiling at the camera
"It didn't matter whether it was a pandemic, a zombie apocalypse, I was moving out," Ms McCarthy says.(Supplied: Sandra Henri Photography)

"I'm so proud of myself and what I've done. I thought I was too disabled to live by myself."

Ms McCarthy lives with spinal muscular atrophy, a neuromuscular condition that impacts the messages between muscles and the brain.

She is "100 per cent reliant on other people".

"That's showering me, getting me in and out of bed, feeding myself, wiping my nose. I need a lot of assistance and it's going to get worse as I get older.

"I can move my head but everything else is a struggle for me.

"That's why moving out was one of those challenges I wanted to achieve."

Ms McCarthy was living with her parents when the opportunity to move out arose.

Living alone has had its challenges, like learning how to ask for — and accept — help, getting used to feeling vulnerable and at times lonely, and teaching support workers how to cook.

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Don't revert back to old ways, expert warns(ABC Sunshine Coast: Gavin Salmon)

But she wouldn't have it any other way and has even embraced the opportunity to work from home in a "perfectly" set up workspace.

"My disability is neuromuscular so part of that is quite a lot of fatigue," she said.

"While I've been working from home it means that I'm not spending an hour a day commuting to work and spending that energy.

"I really hope that employers can recognise that working from home is actually a viable option."

Roller skating benefits mental health

Melbourne-based Carly Findlay, 39, rediscovered a childhood passion during the city's numerous lockdowns. 

"I saw that Instagram was showing me a lot of videos of women roller skating and I thought, 'Oh, this looks amazing, I could do that'," she said.

But rolling down the pavement wasn't as easy as it looked on social media, or as she remembered as a teenager.

"I'm a bit taller … and a little bit heavier as well, so there's further to fall and more weight to fall on, so that was a bit scary," she said.

As her confidence on the skates grew, she noticed multiple benefits throughout the challenging times during the pandemic.

"It allows me to exercise in a way that I hadn't done before.

"I found it's really good for my mental health, particularly mindfulness.

But even being outside in the elements can be difficult for Ms Findlay — an author, appearance activist, speaker and access adviser — who lives with the skin condition ichthyosis.

Her body and skin get sore and inflamed and it can be hard to regulate her body temperature.

"So, the weather has to be pleasant for me to go out, not too hot, not too cold.

"Being outside in the summer is quite hard for me because I don't cool down and also it's quite hard to warm up as well."

Close up of woman with red, shiny skin. She is smiling
During the pandemic's "uncertainty and loneliness", Ms Findlay rediscovered her joy for roller skating.(Instagram: Carly Findlay)

Technology brings new connections

Justin Scanlon also lives in Melbourne and said the pandemic had been challenging for his 15-year-old, non-verbal son — but there were positives too. 

"Technology opens up many, many possibilities that we didn't think possible," he said.

Two men assisting a young man in stand up while holding onto a walking machine
Mr Scanlon says beyond the pandemic, they'll continue to use a mix of face-to-face and online video calls to support his son.(Supplied: Hearth Australia)

"Tristan is six feet, so getting out to see people et cetera is a bit of effort, whereas Zoom it's very, very quick."

Mr Scanlon, who founded Hearth Australia, said the technology gave Tristan more options for sourcing education, allied health and music therapy.

He said online communication had also boosted his son's informal support network.

"His grandparents are [in their] early 80s and they connect on Zoom and he loves it," he said.

"Together with music therapy that's one of the other very exciting opportunities that has come about because of COVID.

"It's been a positive impact of the pandemic that we wouldn't have done before."

ABC is partnering with International Day of People with Disability to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the 4.4 million Australians with disability.


Source: ABC

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