Ausnew Home Care | Couple from regional NSW inspire people with dis

Couple from regional NSW inspire people with disabilities to fulfil their travel dreams

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Barney Miller has conquered some of the country's biggest waves, now the quadriplegic surfer is fulfilling his dream of driving around Australia.

More than two decades ago, Mr Miller broke the C6 vertebra in his neck in a car accident and was diagnosed with a form of quadriplegia.

After years of intensive rehabilitation, the 42-year-old has regained movement in his arms and can breathe independently.

Barney and Kada Miller on a yacht. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Barney and Kada Miller say prepardness has been the key for their roadtrip around Australia(Supplied: Barney and Kada Miller)

Mr Miller and wife Kada left their home in Sawtell on the NSW mid-north coast at the start of the year to drive around Australia.

From sailing with dolphins off the coast of Monkey Mia in Western Australia to swimming with whale sharks, the couple has made their dream holiday a reality.

Mrs Miller said their modified campervan was equipped with ramps, hand-controlled levers to control the brakes and acceleration, and other features that enabled her husband to drive.

A man on a wheelchair with a woman pushing him up a ramp into a large campervan.
Ramps and other modifications have been made to the Millers' campervan.(Supplied: Barney and Kada Miller)

"The one thing he is going to tick off [his bucket list] is that he drove all the way around Australia. He won't let me drive," Mrs Miller said.

She said their adventures had inspired others to support loved ones with disabilities to fulfil their dream holidays.

"Just to see us being able to do it has given them that encouragement to know that it's possible."

Preparation is key

Australia's travel industry has become increasingly accessible and more inclusive for those with disability.

But preparation and contacting tourism companies in advance was key for Mrs Miller to ensure her husband could participate in various activities and tours.

"There's been quite a few places that have put in the effort to be inclusive," Mrs Miller said.

"And if they're not, find another one."

Barney Miller driving with wife Kada
The couple set off on their adventure at the beginning of the year.(Supplied: Barney and Kada Miller)

When the couple contacted a joy flight operator in Broome, Mr Miller said the organisers had never flown anyone in a wheelchair, but the company obtained all the certifications required to ensure he would not miss out on the experience.

"One of my friends and the pilot lifted me into and out of the plane.

"It's a hard thing to ask for help sometimes, but it is incredible how much help you can get when you ask."

Despite the challenges, Barney and Kada Miller hope their trip will inspire others to make their dream holidays a reality.

"You don't have to be limited by anything really, it's just a matter of perspective," Mrs Miller said.

Move towards inclusiveness

Emma Gallagher
Emma Gallagher was among disability advocates who assisted in the rollout of inclusive support measures at Sydney Airport. (ABC News)

Flying for work or to go on a holiday was a traumatic experience for Emma Gallagher, who has autism.

"Now, I have the independence to travel on my own if I need to."

Ms Gallagher works with not-for-profit Autism Spectrum Australia, which has been part of a recent project at Sydney Airport to make air travel more accessible and inclusive.

A sunflower lanyard is available for those with non-visible disability to discreetly identify to staff – who have undergone specialist training — that they may need assistance.

sensory map
An online map shows smells, noise and lighting at Sydney Airport to help those with hidden disabilities navigate the terminals. (ABC News)

Visual stories about how to prepare for air travel as well as an online feature that maps noises, smells and lighting around the airport are among the new measures.

The changes have helped travellers such as Ms Gallagher and others make catching a flight a more enjoyable experience.

Ms Gallagher said the benefits of the initiative went beyond those with disability, and also assisted elderly people, those with dementia and those who spoke English as a second language.

"A lot of the resources are developed in plain, easy-to-read English, and it's designed to support as many people as possible," she said.

A Discovery Holidays tour group at Walpole, WA
Despite border closures, Kass Langdon (centre right) has been busy this summer running tours and organising holidays for people with disabilities in WA. (Supplied: Discovery Holidays)

Pandemic-driven shortages

Getting to the destination isn't the only challenge.

Western Australia-based holiday planner Kass Langdon specialises in supported tours and trips for individuals and groups.

"WA itself has been open and we have had a marvellous time travelling around the state and experiencing new things," she said.

A woman in a hat and t-shirt.
Kass Langdon from Discovery Holidays.(ABC South West WA: Anthony Pancia)

But she said the biggest issue was a supply shortage in specialist equipment, such as cars and certain aircraft, prompted by numerous factors including the COVID-19-induced economic downturn and a surge in demand for assisted holidays.

Ms Langdon said the waitlist for certain transport could be more than 12 months.

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