‘Crucial step’: Health district unveils plan for disability inclusion

EMPOWERING: Paralympian Ben Austin OAM (back) with Meg Jones and Ross Mason at the launch of Western NSW Local Health District's Disability Inclusion Plan.
EMPOWERING: Paralympian Ben Austin OAM (back) with Meg Jones and Ross Mason at the launch of Western NSW Local Health District's Disability Inclusion Plan.

The 55,000 people with disability in the Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) are the focus of new efforts to improve care in accessible and welcoming places.

On Monday the LHD launched its Disability Inclusion Plan in Dubbo during its inaugural Disability Awareness Week.

The project, at least 18 months in the making, focuses on improving access to services and facilities for people with a disability, and on creating environments that are inclusive and enable positive experiences.

Western NSW LHD chief executive Scott McLachlan said the organisation was committed to supporting and including people with disability at all of its facilities and services.

“Across our district 55,000 people have disability and this plan will improve the experience that those people, their carers and our staff have with our health service,” he said.

“We want people with disability, and all people, to be recognised and treated with respect and dignity.”

Paralympian swimmer Ben Austin OAM was at the launch as the Western NSW LHD Disability Inclusion Plan ambassador.

Wellington-born Mr Austin told those assembled of his experiences growing up after his left arm was amputated when he was aged two due to birth complications.

“From a young age I learned the physical limitations I had to overcome in life were only half the battle in comparison to overcoming the limitations of my mind,” he said.

“Inclusion and acceptance are so important in overcoming obstacles and achieving your goals and it’s fantastic to see the LHD taking a crucial step towards this.

“The … plan will empower people to have the confidence to recognise their disability and disclose this information when they interact with health services.”

LHD allied health executive director Richard Cheney emphasised the plan’s significance.

“Today marks a day where we set a new plan for how people with a disability can come into our facilities and their needs will be recognised, that they will feel empowered and our staff will be aware of how to find out what their needs are,” he said.

“This is a day where we’re also wanting to say we need to improve the way we manage disability services across all of Western NSW LHD.

“Not just in our facilities, but across all our communities.”

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