An Albany man who survived a shocking motorcycle crash in Africa says Western Australia urgently needs to fix the many obstacles and barriers to access and funding faced by disabled people.
Late-in-life disabled man says the community needs to appreciate how difficult it is for many disabled people to participate in everyday life
Making facilities more accessible for disabled people still has a long way to go
An older disabled man has been shocked by a ruling that he cannot get NDIS funding through the scheme
Bob Rees became a paraplegic two years ago when he and his wife were hit head-on by a car when they were travelling on their motorcycle in Malawi.
Chris Rees lost her life, and Bob suffered spinal injuries which has confined him to using a wheelchair.
As a late-in-life disabled man he says he is shocked by the lack of uniform standards for disabled toilets, parking and accessibility.
While trying to recover from his injuries, the 73-year-old was told by staff at Fiona Stanley Hospital that he would not be eligible for support from the National Disability Insurance Scheme because he is over 65.
"When I heard that, I was quite stunned," Mr Rees said.
"So, the others in the hospital were all getting their NDIS, and I wasn't getting any.
"What I had to do, with Fiona Stanley's help, with our occupational therapist in particular, was to go and discover where I can access funds myself.
"You have got to do it yourself. And unfortunately, because of this COVID thing, there's less money going around now than what there was two years ago. So, it makes it very difficult."
Speaking to the ABC on International Disability Day last Friday, Mr Rees said that people who become disabled when they are older than 65 arguably need even more help from the government to rebuild their lives.
"How many people know the NDIS [and how] you don't get that once you're 65? You know, that's like Australia's worst kept secret; you know, that's terrible."
The NDIS stipulates on their website that "the requirement to be under 65 years of age to become a NDIS participant recognises that the NDIS is part of a broader system of support in Australia, with the intention that people over 65 should access the aged care system."
The need to change his house, car and motorbike to be suitable for someone who can no longer use his legs has cost him $100,000.
"I'm just fortunate that I can afford it by dipping into my superannuation. Obviously, there's a lot of people that cannot do that and I think that there should be funding for that."
Brendon Flower, who converts vehicles for disabled people at BF Customs near Mount Barker, says he has lost may orders because the NDIS qualification process takes so long that people despair and cancel.
"Unfortunately, sometimes it can take a very long time," he said.
"And I've actually lost a few jobs because people have just given up. It's taken six, nine, even twelve months and they haven't heard anything back.
"I'm not sure why but it'd be great if that could change for them. Because, you know, giving people their independence and being able to drive for a ride. It's just awesome. It's great to give that back to people."
Since he became a paraplegic, Mr Rees has become an advocate for people whose mobility has been severely restricted.
"I'm a positive person anyway, and, and so then I decided that I've got to make this second life worthwhile, and to go and make things worthwhile for me and for others." he said.
"As a consequence of that, I realised how hard it was for other people. And not just paraplegics or people in wheelchairs.
"It's huge, the obstacles that they have to go through on a daily existence.
"So, what I've been trying to do, particularly over the last 18 months, is to speak to decision makers in parliament and council to make their life easier outside of the house."
Mr Rees has approached the Albany council on several occasions to address issues like parking and the provision of adequate room for disabled drivers to park and assemble wheelchairs. He says the council has been "very good" on the issue, but that there are other things that can be done.
"There's many things, for example, simple things like door closers in disabled toilets, they're so strong, the majority of them that, if you're in a wheelchair, you can't sort of hold that door and stay open, it will slam back on you.
"It's only two years since I was walking, like the majority of the population. I've been to the West Australian government for the Ministry for Disabilities and pointed things out to them. And I just feel like I'm getting nowhere.
"I think should be a standard for disability access throughout Australia, so it needs to be an overall body that's actually looking after this stuff.
"I think that there's too many small advisory boards. You would think the Ministry of Disabilities would be overlooking the whole lot, but I don't think they are."