Ausnew Home Care | How people with a disability experienced Victoria's

How people with a disability experienced Victoria's 5.9-magnitude earthquake

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Shiara Lennon was shaken awake by the earthquake yesterday, which almost toppled some pot plants in her seventh-floor apartment.

"My bed was rocking and rolling," she told the ABC with a laugh.

Ms Lennon, 61, was left stunned after the magnitude-5.9 quake, waiting to see if aftershocks would follow.

She is legally blind and has some physical disabilities, which can make mobility a challenge.

Had the earthquake been more severe and moved or displaced objects in her home, it would have been difficult for her to orient herself, let alone get out of the building.

Ms Lennon said it was fortunate her daughter was there, and she came into her room to alert her to the earthquake.

"I don't know what added anxiety I would have experienced if my daughter hadn't been here," she said.

A person in high vis looks at building with bricks scattered on the ground. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
The facade of a building on Chapel Street was damaged by the tremors. (

AFP: William West


Later, Ms Lennon said she was told by neighbours that some residents evacuated from her social housing building in Carlton, but she was disappointed that no-one knocked on her door to check on her.

"That left me feeling kind of forgotten," she said.

A Homes Victoria spokesperson told the ABC there were no evacuations of any public housing towers due to the earthquake, but that inspections of the high-rise towers were underway.

The ABC understands there were reports of water leaks and minor cracking in walls.

"We are responding to reports of minor damage in a small number of public housing dwellings as a result of yesterday's earthquake and we are working with tenants to identify any further issues or concerns," the spokesperson said.

Ms Lennon the earthquake brought the issue of her safety and security back to the forefront – but it's something that has been simmering throughout the pandemic.

"I felt it was an issue that needed to be highlighted … If I'm one, how many others [are] unheard or unseen?"

Soundless tremors for Melbourne's deaf community

While many Victorians may have been alerted to the earthquake by the sound of rattling furniture, that was not the case for Megan Grant.

The 44-year-old was walking into her lounge room to open her timber Venetian blinds when the earthquake hit.

A photo of a woman with a big smile, brown hair and freckles.
Ms Grant realised there was an earthquake when her blinds began wobbling.(



"I did not have my 'ears' on. I am profoundly deaf and hear absolutely nothing without my cochlear speech processors," she told the ABC in an email.

"I was extremely confused when I had noticed that the blinds were wobbling."

She thought perhaps the glass windows had been smashed.

"I was thinking that my mind was playing tricks on me and then realised then that perhaps it was an earthquake. I did a quick Google search which confirmed it."

She also had some clues that something was amiss because her cockatiel was "more alert than usual and was pacing on her perch".

Her hearing assistance dog, George, was also more alert.

"I remember him popping his head up really quickly and jumping out of his bed which was a bit unusual as he likes to take his time and stretch when getting up," she said.

Ms Grant said other deaf friends who felt the rocking from the quake did not hear the rumbling – one thought his wife was hitting the couch to get his attention, while another thought her children were fighting upstairs.

"I felt reasonably calm when all of this was happening," she said.

"I was probably pleased that I didn't have my ears on as I think I would have been more alarmed if I had heard the rattling."

Disasters an opportunity for connection

Nadia Mattiazzo, acting CEO at Women with Disabilities Victoria, said she thought her seeing eye dog was scratching itself when the earthquake struck.

"Then I realised, 'No, when dogs scratch, the whole house doesn't shake," she said.

"There was a lot of noise, there was a lot of creaking … It was seriously weird."

A photo of a woman with brown hair and yellow shirt.
Ms Mattiazzo says her partner thought her dog was jumping on the bed before realising it was an earthquake.(



Some people in her organisation had also worked in New Zealand, which brought up some past memories of destructive earthquakes.

She said people like her living in a blind household might have no idea if there was structural damage to their building.

She said there would be some differences in experience — for example, for a wheelchair user on a high-level floor who could not leave their home quickly.

"But, you know, it's pretty much the same as everybody else," she said.

She said for many people who might already feel isolated due to the pandemic and rattled by the earthquake, it was worth checking in and debriefing.

Ross Joyce, CEO at Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, agreed it was important for neighbours to check in on each other, especially if they faced mobility issues.

He said he knew of people living on the 30th storey of buildings who were quite shaken by it.

"People say we're disconnected, but I've seen a lot of connection happening through community.

"A great thing with the Australian resolve is that we do actually want to look after each other."


Source: ABC

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