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5 things about invisible disabilities you need to know

Date Posted: Wednesday, 15 February 2017 12:49
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Imagine having a disability but being called a faker, or lazy because people couldn’t ‘see’ it. Here are five things about invisible disabilities you need to know.

Invisible disabilities

Last year you might have read our blog where we tackled the disability parking debate - specifically how people with invisible disabilities are being targeted by parking vigilantes for ‘rorting’ the system.

But the discussion around invisible disabilities goes a lot deeper than the parking dispute. It’s a complex topic, but today we’re going to clear it up. 

Here are five things about invisible disabilities you need to know. 

Fact #1: Invisible disabilities are not rare.

Nope, they’re really not. Millions of Australians live with a disability – and a surprising 90% of these people have what is called an invisible disability.

As the name suggests, invisible disabilities aren’t easy to spot and you can’t ‘tell’ they have a disability just by looking at them. 

But there are many disabilities and conditions that are counted as ‘invisible’, such as MS, autism, ADHD, arthritis, brain injuries, mental illnesses, diabetes, epilepsy, cognitive and learning disabilities, chronic pain and fatigue… and the list goes on. 

Some invisible disabilities will become more obvious once you get to know a person a bit better, but many may be completely hidden unless the person chooses to tell you.

Fact #2: Some of your fav celebs have an invisible disability.

Did you know that some of the biggest stars that we all love and admire have invisible illnesses and disabilities?

It’s true – here are just a few examples: Selena Gomez has Lupus, Jack Osbourne has MS, Demi Lovato has bipolar disorder, Little Wayne has epilepsy, Morgan Freeman has a chronic pain condition (fibromyalgia), Richard Gere and Ben Stiller have had Lyme Disease, Halle Berry has diabetes, and Amanda Seyfried has anxiety. 

One thing’s for sure: this hasn’t stopped any of these people from carving out a successful career in their chosen fields. The best bit: they have chosen to speak openly about their conditions, helping to raise awareness and combat stigma around invisible illness and disability.

Fact #3: People with invisible disabilities are not just ‘faking it’.  

This one’s really important – because unfortunately  people with invisible disabilities are often accused of faking or imagining their symptoms - the phrases “but you don’t look sick” or "you don't look like you have a disability" are said far too often!

Imagine having a very real diagnosis, and being unable to convince people that you’re not just a ‘hypochondriac’,  or ‘being lazy’? Wouldn’t be nice would it. For these people, being met with skepticism that they’re legit is one of the hardest things of all. 

And what makes this worse, is it actually also stops people from talking about their disability or downplaying their own experiences – which just perpetuates the invisibility and stigma even more!

So while it can be very easy to think, ‘I had something similar and I just got over it’ or ‘it can’t be that bad’, remember there can be a lot more to what’s going on than meets the eye. 

Fact #4: Accessible toilets are not just for people who use a wheelchair.

There are actually so many reasons why someone who doesn’t ‘look like they have a disability‘ might need to use the accessible toilet – and they shouldn’t be given death stares for doing so, or feel like they need to explain themselves.

For example, maybe they have a colostomy bag (where bowel motions are collected in a disposable bag) and need the extra space and running water. Maybe they have an inflammatory bowel disease, and are finding it difficult to hold on. Or maybe they have a disability that makes balancing tricky and they need to use hand rails.

Whatever the reason – all these people have the right to use the accessible amenities. So before you roll your eyes next time someone skips the bathroom queue for the accessible toilet, just remember that it’s not just those with physical disabilities who need these facilities.

Also remember, while it’s not illegal to use one an accessible toilet if you don’t have a disability, if you don’t need to use one, leave them free for those who do.  

Fact #5: Same goes for accessible parking

Last year we wrote a whole blog on accessible parking, and boy did it stir up some opinions! For anyone that missed it - while it’s illegal to park in an accessible parking space without a permit (and you’ll be up for a hefty fine if you do) some people have taken it upon themselves to become parking vigilantes.

The issue here is that these vigilantes think they’re doing the right thing by catching people out, but they often misread the situation – shaming those with invisible disabilities of cheating the system despite having an appropriate permit.

But there are so many reasons why someone might need a more accessible space than a wheelchair (think: prosthetic limb, breathing difficulties, mobility issues, etc).

So don’t try and police the parking spaces yourself – leave it up to those who are qualified to do so. 

Share your own experiences with us in the comments section below!


Read our other blogs

The disability parking debate
10 things not to say to someone with a disability
Facts about being diagnosed with autism as an adult

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

Facts about being diagnosed with autism as an adult

Date Posted: Tuesday, 31 January 2017 12:38
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

What you need to know about being diagnosed with autism as an adult

Autism as an adult 

We often hear stories about people reading or seeing something about autism and thinking to themselves, “That’s me!”.

It's actually not uncommon for people to have gone through life without a diagnosis, some saying they just had a feeling they didn’t quite “fit in".

Let’s take a deeper look into receiving an autism diagnosis as an adult.

#1. No two adults with autism have the same story.

This is exactly why it’s called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – people experience it in their own unique way. 

Often adults who receive a late autism diagnosis have milder symptoms - previously this may have been called Aspergers syndrome which now comes under the ASD banner.

Growing up, people may have experienced:

  • Being unable to read facial or body language such as someone frowning.

  • Taking sarcastic comments literally, or not understanding playground jokes - when told to ‘get lost’ they may have literally tried to ‘get lost’.

  • Difficulty making friends, with some preferring to play alone or with older children or adults.

  • Narrow interests, and wanting to find out everything there is to know about a topic such as astronomy, dinosaurs, or cars.

  • Using a formal style of speaking such as saying 'beckon' instead of 'call'.

  • Sensory sensitivity such as to loud noise, bright lights, or strong flavours.

  • A dislike of change - instead preferring routines and rituals.

  • Avoiding eye contact when speaking, or at times staring at others.

  • Difficulty expressing needs, wants, and opinions, or using appropriate grammar and vocabulary.

As people move into their teens and especially into adulthood, they may find their lives are still impacted in different ways, but often people learn social skills and how to read social cues. Many grow up to have strong careers, marry, and have children.

#2. Many undiagnosed adults were just thought to be shy.

The nineties might be famous for Doc Martins, Troll dolls, and Britney Spears – but it was also the era when medical professionals made some major strides relating to ASD.

What these advances meant is we were now able to identify the subtler symptoms of autism much more easily, and at an earlier age.

This means that people who were undiagnosed a few decades ago may well have been today.

Instead, many people living with ASD were thought to have just been shy or introverted. Difficulty making friends, forming intimate relationships, reading people’s faces, and finding work, were put down to being antisocial, mean, or aloof. 

As a child, as well as being thought of as 'shy', people tell of being labelled ‘disruptive’, ‘difficult’ or ‘naughty’ because of their behaviour. 

#3. While you might feel that you ‘tick some of the boxes’ you don’t necessarily have autism

Autism is a complex disability, and even though you might be thinking these symptoms ring true of yourself or someone you know, it isn’t necessarily autism – there are many factors such as your environment and personality which shape who you are as a child and into adulthood.

Also, other conditions such as schizophrenia, OCD, anxiety, depression, intellectual disability, and sensory processing disorder can have similarities to autism. As it is so complex, specific guidelines are used to distinguish autism from these other conditions.

#4. There’s still no simple method to diagnose adult ASD.

While methods have been developed to diagnose children with ASD (through observation and questionnaires), there is surprisingly still no standard way to diagnose an adult. 

At this stage, diagnosis is often reached through a range of tests and interviews which look at a person’s intellectual functioning, social adaptability, communication skills, and a childhood history of ASD traits.

This means that diagnosis as an adult can be challenging.

For example, it can be pretty difficult to remember details from your childhood that would provide clues to ASD – and parents are often not around to help fill in the blanks. 

Many adults have also developed strategies to compensate for or ‘cover up’ their traits, so it can be difficult for an interviewer to note certain behaviours.

Plus, autism often presents quite similarly to other disorders (such as anxiety, depression and ADHD). This means it is often quite hard to define which experiences and symptoms may relate to ASD.

#5. A diagnosis may not change anything, BUT it also may… 

So, why would you bother trying to get a diagnosis? Well for a start, it can come as a relief to have an answer. For lots of people, it’s helpful just to know, rather than to suspect or assume. 

Some people have described having a ‘lightbulb moment’ where they finally understand why they feel the way they do. 

An official diagnosis can help you answer a lot questions you might have about yourself. It can also help those around you such as your family, friends or your employer, to understand the difficulties you experience, and how they can make things a little easier. 

There have also been many cases where people have been misdiagnosed with a mental illness or other disability, such as social anxiety disorder or OCD. Knowing opens the door to appropriate treatments and services (some of which you may not even know about). Your doctor can also help you tap into autism support groups and social skill training. All of which can help make the day-to-day that bit easier.

Some people believe a diagnosis won’t change anything and will be an unhelpful label, so why waste time trying to seek one out? And this is fine! Some adults with ASD are happy self-diagnosing and finding their own ways to adapt. It’s up to each person to decide whether a diagnosis would be helpful or not. 

So, if you do want to pursue the path of diagnosis, where to next?

Seeking a diagnosis is completely up to the individual but if it’s something you or someone you know would like to explore, the best first step is to talk to your GP.

Your GP will usually refer you to a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist for consultation. From here, you’ll generally be asked lots of questions about your childhood, experiences at school, and the present day. They may also do some psychological or psychiatric testing before making a formal diagnosis.

It's important to remember that autism is a complex disability and as far as we know there’s no single cause. Instead, it’s likely to be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

Read our other blogs

6 facts about sensory hypersensitivity
4 things that don't cause autism 
6 tips for an inclusive kids party 

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

Tags: autism

8 ways to keep your cool this summer

Date Posted: Thursday, 12 January 2017 12:50
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Summer is definitely here. For me, summer crawls into my life, leaving me exhausted and counting the days until the temperature drops and I can drag myself out of hibernation.

Heat and disability

My name is Melissa Saville. I am a Physiotherapist, Pilates and Yoga teacher; lover of pets, craft and music, and an avid baker. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) a few years back - a condition which affects the central nervous system.

Melissa

Before I was diagnosed with MS, I spent many years working as a neurological rehabilitation physiotherapist, training and educating people who had had spinal cord or brain injuries.  At the time, I definitely wasn’t thinking that one day I would have to take on board the advice I was giving to others, to manage my own neurological disease. 

The symptoms or effects of MS can vary greatly, but can include weakness, feelings of numbness or tingling, pain, fatigue, bladder and bowel problems, memory loss, depression, and other thinking difficulties. I struggle mainly with fatigue and major depression. 

MS, disability and the heat

Summer is definitely here. For some people this may bring to mind images of beaches, running through the sprinklers, ice cream dripping down sticky fingers, and thongs.

For me, summer crawls into my life - wreaking havoc, leaving me exhausted, collapsed under a fan, decorated in wet towels with a spray bottle hanging from one hand, and counting the days until the temperature drops and I can crawl out of hibernation.

Everyone is affected by the heat but people with disabilities can find it especially hard. 

Many people with MS experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms when the weather is hot or humid, or they have a fever. This is because higher temperatures further impair the ability for the brain and spinal cord's nerves or pathways to conduct the electrical impulses that tell the body and mind what to do.

Because of this, when it is hot I find myself more exhausted than usual, unable to do simple tasks without resting, and often become nauseous. Some days I’m well enough to forget I have this “monkey on my back,” but as the temperature rises this summer, that monkey has unpacked its suitcase and is here to stay.

For others with a disability, the heat can also be tricky for a few reasons - damage to the normal cooling mechanism of the body such as sweating; medications that increase heat or sunlight sensitivity; being unable to afford air conditioning; or needing support to stay hydrated or being aware of the need to do this.

Tips to stay cool

Because of my MS, I need to modify my life to be able to do all the things I love. For anyone struggling with the heat as I am - here are 8 things that I find helpful during summer:

  1. Wear a cooling device

    I like wearing a cooling scarf around my neck when I exercise or on those very hot days. I have a few of them so I can colour coordinate, of course! You can also get cooling hats, vests and even bras! To use them, you put them in water, and the gel inside holds cool temperatures for long periods of time - you can even put them in the fridge to make them extra frosty. Your pharmacist, physio or doctor may be able to help you find these.

  2. Stay Inside

    Sounds simple but fans and air conditioning are wonderful. I don’t have air conditioning so on really hot days I have been known to go to the movie theatre to enjoy the air conditioning there.

  3. Stick to or create your own shade

    Find trees, hats, lightweight devices such as umbrellas that can be clamped to the side of the wheelchair - whatever works for you to stay out of the direct sunlight if you have to go out.

  4. Staying cool at night

    Choose a lower thread count for your cotton sheets. Whilst you may equate high thread count with luxury, in fact, the higher the thread count, the more tightly knit and less breathable the fabric is. Consider your mattress choice as well - some memory foam or latex mattresses with a high content of synthetic rather than natural fibres will feel hotter. You can also find cooling pillows and a cooling bed pad that sits on the top of your mattress and prevents a build-up of body heat.

  5. Planning

    This is something I’m not always very good at - but avoiding the hottest part of the day (10-3pm) really does help. Whilst I would love to be an early riser, I’m not, so I save any exercise for the afternoon or evening when the sun’s not so hot. Also, because my brain can be a little foggy in the afternoon heat, I save important tasks for the mornings or evenings when I’m fresh.

  6. Wardrobe review

    My wardrobe is stocked with lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres (I like cotton or linen).

  7. Have some delicious, cool snacks on hand

    My freezer is stocked with frozen grapes, icy poles and frozen water bottles. I also have an empty water bottle in my car in case I forget to bring one with me to stay hydrated. The frozen ones are my favourite though, as I can cool myself down quickly by placing it on my wrists or neck.

  8. Yoga

    Huh? How could yoga possibly be used to keep me cool? I love to use a technique called Sitali or Sitkari breathing to cool me down and nearly everybody can do this. The practice involves curling your tongue, as if you are drinking in air through a straw (or resting your tongue behind your front teeth if you find this difficult), and breathing in deeply- allowing the air to move over your moist tongue, before breathing out through your nose.  I find this cooling not only for my body but also my mind which is good if I’m sitting in a traffic jam! 

There is no right or wrong way to keep you cool this summer. Talk to your physio, doctor or other health professional for more ideas and to help you decide what is going to work best for you or your loved one.

I hope these tips have got you thinking of ways to make your summer more comfortable!

- Melissa


Read our other blogs

Myths about multiple sclerosis (MS)

6 facts you might not know about therapy animals

10 things not to say to someone with a mental illness

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps
Tags: health fitness MS

6 facts about sensory hypersensitivity

Date Posted: Wednesday, 14 December 2016 12:14
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Hear the term sensory hypersensitivity, but not sure what it really means? Let’s take a look at what it’s all about – from common triggers, to practical management techniques.

Woman with sensory hypersensitivity

1. Sensory hypersensitivity isn’t people just being ‘touchy’.

While sensory experiences are often enjoyable (the taste of cake, or the smell of fresh linen) there are times when they can be too much.

People with hypersensitivity are oversensitive to things in their environment. If you’ve ever been irritated by the sound of a dripping tap or a shirt that’s too tight, or you flinch if someone touches your arm, you’ll have some idea of what sensory hypersensitivity feels like.

While these things may make you feel annoyed or tetchy, it can be quite different to those who are experiencing it day to day.

For some people, they may also experience sensory overload which happens when the sensory experiences around a person are too great for their nervous system - and they are not able to process or make meaning of it. As you can imagine, this can be very stressful, uncomfortable, and at times intolerable.

2. Some conditions and disabilities can make people more prone to sensory hypersensitivity.

While anyone can experience sensory hypersensitivity, there are some conditions that make people more susceptible – including autism, sensory processing disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. 

3. Many things can be triggers. 

As you may expect, loud noises and bright lights can be triggers for sensory hypersensitivity - and what can be a trigger for one person, can be very different from another. 

For example, the texture or flavour of food, the feel of fabric on the skin, the clatter of a spoon, the pitch of a particular song, or the smell of shampoo can all be triggers. 

“When I go into a crowded area my sinuses are overloaded with different aromas and I find it very difficult to breathe,” says Patricia. “One of the worst offenders are women who wear lots of strong perfume, another is cigarette smoke. Stale popcorn in the movie theatres is another aroma that turns my stomach.”

4. Everyone reacts differently.

Just as triggers can be different for different people, so can people’s responses. 

Some people may find it hard to concentrate or sit still. “Everything comes at me at once,” explains one House with No Steps customer. “Every sound is like someone is in my ear with a megaphone, and I can’t focus on anything. It all becomes a blur, like there are bees buzzing around in my head.” 

Others may feel irritated, restless, or angry. “It makes me feel like I have so many angry feelings and my boiler is going to explode,” described another customer. “I can’t sit still when I have a tickle in my boiler."

And for some, they may become anxious or panicked, and even freeze or be unable to talk, "For me the first thing that I notice is the increase in anxiety levels, particularly if I am in a crowded room,” says Hannah, a House with No Step customer. 

“This makes my muscles really tense up. Then if I do not get out, I suddenly feel as if there is an invisible wall between my brain and the rest of my body. I know and understand exactly what is happening to me and around me, I just cannot express anything. This cuts in just before I have a full blown panic attack. So I am a statue in a room full of people." 

5. Kids with hypersensitivity are not ‘just naughty’

Sometimes kids with hypersensitivity can seem fussy or even naughty to others – they may refuse to wear certain clothes or brush their hair, only eat soft foods such as mashed potato, cover their ears or hit their heads, or appear to have a ‘tantrum’.

But it’s important to know that this is not related to the child being naughty or poor discipline in any way. This is a child’s response to trying to resolve their distress.

6. There many ways to manage sensory hypersensitivity.

For children and adults, occupational therapy can help reduce sensory sensitivity, however there are also some techniques that people can use to manage things themselves. 

If you do start to feel overwhelmed, taking a break can help you to re-set and re-charge. 

It’s also a good idea to take note of what can trigger you – for example, if you’re sensitive to noise, you could try blocking background noises with earplugs, and listening to calming music or white noise instead. 

Or if crowds are problematic, try visiting restaurants and shops in non-peak times, and avoiding situations where you know you’ll feel out of control. 

One way to think about it is to put yourself on a “sensory diet” that’s suited to your personal needs. This involves reducing sensory experiences that are potentially harmful (such as using earplugs around loud noises), but still making sure you get enough ‘nourishment’ to your senses (such as enjoying soft music in the case of our hearing sense) – much as we’d aim for a healthy balance of foods.

And if in doubt, don’t hesitate to seek support from a professional.


Read our other blogs

6 tips for an inclusive kids party
4 things that don't cause autism 
6 facts you might not know about therapy animals

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

5 disability news stories that raised eyebrows this year

Date Posted: Wednesday, 07 December 2016 08:57
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

We've scoured social media to bring you the most talked about disability stories for the year 

top disability stories of 2016

With 2016 drawing to a close, we're taking a look back at the last twelve months – and the stories about disability that raised our eyebrows on social media for all sorts of reasons.

Here are the top five disability stories that have had the biggest reaction online this year so far…

1. That time UK’s Channel 4 put in a superhuman effort with their Paralympics campaign. 

On the heels of their wildly successful 2012 Paralympic trailer, this year UK’s Channel 4 took things up a notch with their ad to promote Rio’s Paralympic event. 

Dubbed ‘We’re The Superhumans’, this ad uses the power of humour to celebrate people from all walks of life – and shift society’s perceptions of disability. 

Broadening its focus beyond the sporting arena, the ad pays tribute to 140 people with disabilities, who are all conquering life in unexpected ways. From a blind pianist, to a pilot, to a mum changing her baby’s nappy using her feet, it’s a montage of amazing moments – all set to a pumping Sammy Davis Junior soundtrack (performed by a band of musicians from around the world, all with disabilities).

Viewed by millions of people, it was certainly one of our favourite ads this year at House with No Steps – check it out for yourself to see what all the fuss is about! 

2. That time Donald Trump offended someone (ok…it wasn’t the only time). 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware of some of the controversy Donald Trump has stirred up this year. He certainly raised a few hackles at a rally in South Carolina when he mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski – who has a condition called arthrogryposis that limits the movement of his arms.

When addressing comments made by Kovaleski, Trump waved his arms and spoke in an exaggerated manner in what appeared to be a deliberate dig. 

However, Trump later claimed that "I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago. If Mr. Kovaleski is handicapped, I would not know because I do not know what he looks like…. He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a newspaper that is rapidly going down the tubes."

The New York Times commented, "We find it's outrageous that he would ridicule the appearance of one of our reporters”. See how it all went down below. 

3. That time Lego unveiled its first figure with a disability.

For some time, Danish toymaker Lego has been under pressure to make toys that reflect real life more accurately – and last year, this reached boiling point thanks to the change.org #toyslikeme petition, which attracted over 20,000 signatures.

The good news? In June 2016, Lego responded by releasing its first ever mini-figure with a disability: a beanie-wearing boy in a wheelchair accompanied by an assistance dog.

Lego wheelchair figure

Launched as part of Lego’s latest CITY toy set, the new figure is accompanied by an ice-cream vendor, cyclist and picnickers.

Good stuff, Lego, we love your work!

Put it on your Christmas list and check it out here.

4. That time we welcomed a note-worthy new $5 bill.

By now, one of Australia’s shiny new $5 bills has probably found its way into your wallet, having been released in September this year.

But the exciting part of this story was there was much more to this new note than a cool new design – and it’s in a large part all thanks to Sydney teenager Connor McLeod, who launched a discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission, and started a change.org petition calling for action on accessible currency.

As a result, the new $5 was developed to be accessible to blind and vision-impaired people. Each note features two small raised dots (about the size of a sprinkles on a piece of fairy bread), which will help it be more easily identified.

These tactile features have been integrated into the note itself using a new printing technology, so they shouldn’t get squashed or wear off (a feat much harder than you would think).

New five dollar note

So how did people with low vision cope in the past? Up until now, they had to ask a stranger to tell them a note’s denomination, use a clumsy machine to measure the note’s size, or use a smartphone app (however most smartphones have inaccessible touchscreens for those with a vision impairment).

You can therefore see why this is such a great step forward for people with vision impairments, and a testament to what perseverance can achieve!

5. That time a three-legged puppy won hearts, awards and job offers.

Back in 2014, German film students Jacob Frey and Markus Kranzler created a rather special short film for their film school graduation project. Entitled “The Present”, the film tells the story of a young boy who is given a puppy that has three legs.

While initially unenthusiastic, the young boy warms to the puppy and they go on to share a beautiful friendship (there is more to this story, but we’ll be careful not to spoil the ending).

Since its launch, the film has won hearts all over the globe, and won 59 international awards (and counting) – and it’s easy to see why the film has struck such a chord with so many people.

This year, the story again captured people’s attention, with the creators being offered jobs at Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios – showing off their talents by working on films such as The Good Dinosaur and the Secret Life of Pets.

Check it out below.

Which stories made you sit up and take notice this year? We’d love to hear from you – drop us a comment below.


Read our other blogs

The disability parking debate
10 things not to say to someone with a disability 
"Run Forest, Run!". Disability stereotypes in the media

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

Tags: Media

5 hot topics that got you talking this year

Date Posted: Friday, 02 December 2016 14:49
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

This year we wanted to get people talking about disability, so we put all topics on the table – here are our most hotly debated blogs from 2016!

Someone commenting on a top blog

This year we decided that we wanted to get people talking – talking about disability and about topics that are often seen as ‘taboo’.

So we decided to put all topics on the table – sex, language, parking permits, and more. And it sure got you guys talking!

As 2016 comes to an end, here are the most hotly debated blogs we posted this year.

Topic #1: The disability parking debate

International symbol of access

We were blown away by the response to our blog on disability parking – or more specifically, people with a disability being verbally abused, left nasty notes, thrown filthy looks, or having their cars keyed for rightfully parking in a disability space.

Hundreds of people commented on Facebook about their similar experiences - where others had assumed they were ‘rorting’ the system for parking in an accessible spot.

This was often because they weren’t using a wheelchair, or didn’t have a ‘visible disability’ - but in fact 9 out of 10 disabilities are invisible.

What you said…

Topic #2: My story living with a disability: Prader-Willi syndrome

Kate: my life with Prader-Willi syndrome

One of our most talked about blogs this year was written by our customer, Kate, who has Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS).

Kate shared how this rare and complex genetic disability means that she has chronic hunger and an obsession with food.

“People with Prader-Willi syndrome have an unsatisfied hunger meaning they always feel hungry. They don’t have the signal that comes from the brain, the light-bulb going on saying, hey you’re full!”, she says.

"I have eaten out of bins before. And being around food in shopping centres is very hard. I have to admit, I have stolen food from shops when I didn’t have any money."

What you said…

Topic #3: 10 things not to say to someone with a disability

Man in wheelchair talking with girl

We know that it’s not always easy to know what to say to someone with a disability – but no matter how good the intentions, some comments can do more harm than good.

Hands up if anyone with a disability has ever been told, ‘It’s so good to see you out and about!’, or ‘“I know a great doctor/priest, I bet he could fix you.”

From the Facebook comments on our blog, ‘10 things not to say to someone with a disability’, we found that many people were putting their hands up high!

When we posted this article, the conversation sure got rolling with differing opinions of what should be left unsaid.

What you said...

Topic #4: Sex and disability: the facts

Sex and disability

Talking about sex is often seen as off limits, and even more so when it comes to people with a disability. 

But this year we weren’t shying away from this topic, publishing not one but two blogs: Sex and disability: the facts, and Sex and disability: the facts part 2.

People with a disability are often seen as asexual, or even hyper-sexual, and we were out to prove just how wrong that can be.

We know that having a disability doesn’t mean someone can’t enjoy a great sex life - whether it’s a long-term relationship or a fun fling. And by the Facebook comments on our blogs, we found that our online community agreed!

What you said...

Topic #5: Let’s end the R-word

End the rword

Back in March we asked our customers why people should not not use the R-word (retard), and the stories they shared sure got people talking!

When people use the R-word, it is often to insult people with a disability, or to call someone or something stupid - “You’re being so retarded”. 

What’s wrong with this? Leigh shared a story to explain how the R-word made him feel, “I was walking home one day, walking along minding my own business, and a car drove past and the guy yelled both the R-word and the f-word. It was really really hurtful.”

Although we feel the R-word is hurtful, derogatory, and reinforces negative stereotypes, the reaction to our blog online was split.  For House with No Steps, this just means there is more work to be done to be done.

What you said...


 Read our other blogs

10 things not to say to someone with a mental illness
4 things that don't cause autism
Online trolls targeting people with a disability

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

Disabled vs person with a disability

Date Posted: Wednesday, 23 November 2016 10:00
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Disabled person vs person with a disability. Autistic person vs person with autism. They may sound similar, but these terms can actually be very different from one another.

Group of people holding speech bubbles

Up until quite recently, language such as ‘disabled person’ was still widely used across Australia. These days, we’ve seen a shift in the way we talk about disability, with terms such as ‘person with a disability’ used instead. 

This new way of speaking is called ‘person-first language’, and replaces the older style ‘identity-first language’ – but what’s the difference and why the change? 

In a nutshell, person-first language is where the person comes before the disability such as a ‘person with a disability’ or ‘person with autism’. 

And identity-first language is where the disability comes before the person such as ‘disabled person’ or ‘autistic person’.

While most organisations only use person-first language, some people with a disability still prefer to use identity-first language themselves. 

So let’s take a look at both sides of the argument below.


The person-first argument

"It’s about seeing me as a person, not seeing my disability."

The idea behind person-first language is that it puts the person first – it’s about seeing the person, not the disability.  

If you use disability as a descriptor (‘deaf person’, ‘autistic person’), it places emphasis on the disability. However, many people feel that having a disability doesn’t define or describe them in anyway. They are just like everyone else, they just happen to have a disability. 

“I always prefer person-first language because my disability isn’t a huge part of me, it’s secondary to who I am,” explains a House with No Steps customer. 

"There’s much more to me than my disability."

People with a disability are parents, siblings, friends, co-workers or neighbours. They may be sporty, sensitive, smart, self-deprecating, or have a goofy sense of humour. 

A disability is not the sole factor that defines a person, it’s just one part of the picture. People all have individual strengths, skills, interests, likes, and dislikes – things that have nothing to do with their disability! 

Whatever the case, we are all complex and interesting people, and that’s what person-first language reminds us about.

A House with No Steps customer explains, “When it comes down to it, I would much prefer to be known as the ‘cool, quirky girl who loves vintage dresses’ rather than the ‘disabled girl’. But if you must describe me and my disability, I am a ‘person with a disability’ any day.”


The identity-first argument

"My disability is not a negative or something to be ashamed of."

Some people think that language such as ‘person with autism’ or ‘person with a disability’ turns disability into something negative, something that needs to be tucked away at the end of a sentence. 

Instead, they see ‘autistic person’ or ‘disabled person’ as terms which embrace and celebrate their disability – and who it makes them.

Prominent autism-rights activist Jim Sinclair writes, “Saying ‘person with autism’ suggests that autism is something bad – so bad that is isn't even consistent with being a person. Nobody objects to using adjectives to refer to characteristics of a person that are considered positive or neutral."  

"We talk about athletic or musical people, not about ‘people with athleticism’ or ‘people with musicality.’ It is only when someone has decided that the characteristic being referred to is negative that suddenly people want to separate it from the person.”

"I am my disability, it is part of me."

People also believe that ‘person with autism’ or ‘person with a disability’ implies that the disability can (or should) be separated from the person. 

In fact for many people with a disability, they feel their disability is integrated into who they are – and their disability cannot be separated from their identity, nor do they want it to be.

Jim Sinclair says, “Saying 'person with autism' suggests that the autism can be separated from the person.  But this is not the case.  Autism is part of me.  Autism is hard-wired into the ways my brain works. I am autistic because I cannot be separated from how my brain works.”

Also in the words of the late Stella Young: “I've never had to say that I'm a person who's a woman, or a person who is Australian, or a person who knits. Somehow, we're supposed to buy this notion that if we use the term ‘disabled’ too much, it might strip us of our personhood.”

"Person-first language can be clunky and awkward."

Fans of identity-first language feel it is less awkward, repetitive, and makes for smoother communication. They see terms such as ‘person with a disability’ as trickier to weave into conversation, and therefore more cumbersome.

Australians love to shorten our words whenever we can – barbie, arvo, Maccas, cuppa, footy, biccy, the list goes on. However, person-first language does the opposite – and for some this can feel unnatural, forced, and 'too PC’.


So what’s the verdict?

In Australia, person-first language is the most widely accepted approach, and one House with No Steps uses in all our communications. 

That said, it’s personal and there are no hard and fast rules. Ultimately the best way to address someone is always using their name – and if you’re not sure how they’d like to be referred to otherwise, you can always politely ask! 

But, when in doubt, we suggest you default to person-first language. 

It (hopefully) goes without saying that hurtful or derogatory terms like ‘retard’ and ‘spastic’ should always be avoided.  In our view this is not being overly politically correct, this is just showing people respect.

And for a quick overview of acceptable words and phrases, check out our handy disability language reference guide here.

Do you prefer person-first or identity first language? We’d love to hear from you – just write your comment below or drop us a line


Read our other blogs

10 things not to say to someone with a disability
10 things not to say to someone with a mental illness
Online trolls targeting people with a disability

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

NDIS real-talk: getting to the nitty-gritty

Date Posted: Thursday, 10 November 2016 11:58
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Our Community Engagement Manager, Jessie, talks about the nitty-gritty of the NDIS 

NDIS Graphic

“How are you finding the NDIS?” it’s a question that I am asked almost every day. It’s not that the people asking don’t know about the NDIS, it’s that they want the real story, the nitty-gritty.

It’s not too hard to find positive stories about the NDIS, but negative stories are quite easy to come by as well. 

People with a disability, families, service providers, the NDIA, and government organisations are all learning – it’s a new world we’re all operating in. The NDIA’s processes have changed many times since the trial sites started in 2013, and have continued to change with the full roll-out beginning this year. 

Service providers’ internal processes are constantly changing to better cater for customers and increase sustainability. People with a disability and their carers have had to learn how to negotiate with the NDIA for funding, and with service providers on their funds are used for services. Often, people did not know the full effects of the change to the NDIS before they went into their planning meetings.

How much NDIS funding are people receiving?

Often, people want to know what the “average” funding outcome is. I could tell you that, according to the NDIA, the average plan amount is $36,049 (NDIA Quarterly Report June 2016). Or that a majority of my customers are quite happy with their funding but are still trying to understand exactly how to navigate the NDIS world. But the truth is, no one is having the same experience. The plan amount will vary depending on your situation and the levels of satisfaction are not solely dictated by the NDIS.

Another question I am often asked is “Did anyone get less funding?” The short answer is yes, a small number did. Sometimes, it was that there was a mistake, and the person had to request a plan review. Other times, the NDIA and the individual had different definitions of “reasonable and necessary.” The majority of the time, when people have received less fund it has been after a plan review. The main reason for this is that the individual has built capacity and doesn’t need as much support any more. Which is an excellent outcome for all parties. 

Quite a few people were confused about what the NDIS will and won’t fund. Gym memberships and holiday accommodation won’t be funded, but you can use your NDIS budget for the support for you to attend gym or go on holiday.

Are people happy with their outcomes?

In general, people who went into their meetings with clear goals got the best results. But preparing for a meeting is more than just setting goals. It’s important to do a clear review of what your life is like now. From here you can work on what you want your life to look like in the future, and how you will achieve this. 

To put it simply, people who planned well and had a good understanding of what to expect have had excellent outcomes. In addition, many families who went in with little or no pre-planning or understanding of the NDIS were able to navigate the system with support and achieve great outcomes.

There are also some families who are challenging the decisions made by the NDIA. And some families have still not even heard of the NDIS. So really, it’s a mixed kettle of fish. 

So, how am I finding the NDIS? If you are prepared, do your research and you’ll be fine.

- Jessie Shaw, Community Engagement Manager. Townsville


Find out more

Choosing House with No Steps as an NDIS provider
Find out about our disability services
Meet Jessie - Community Engagement Manager

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps
Tags: NDIS

6 tips for an inclusive kids party

Date Posted: Thursday, 03 November 2016 12:38
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Our top 6 tips for making sure your next kids party is warm, welcoming, and fun!

Hosting an inclusive party for people with disabilities

Hosting a children’s party is no mean feat – and making sure all guests, including those with disabilities, can join in may seem challenging at first. The good news? It’s actually not so hard to make a kids’ party inclusive for children with a disability.

Here are our top tips for making sure everyone’s welcome.

1. Drop mum or dad a line. 

If you’re concerned about ‘making a big deal’ about your guest’s disability, don’t be. You’re not a mind reader, but no one expects you to be! A simple phone call to their parents not only shows you care, it allows you to find out how to make the party a fantastic day for their child. And truthfully, most parents will appreciate you taking the time to ask.

Not sure if any of your child’s friends have a disability or specific needs? An easy way to make sure everyone feels welcome is to mention it in the invitation’s RSVP; something along the lines of: “We want everyone to have fun, so please let us know if your child has any specific needs we need to be mindful of.”

2. Encourage the kids to follow your lead. 

Even small children can grasp the idea of being kind and welcoming to others – so before the event, remind your own children how important it is to be inclusive. 

A little light-hearted talk to the entire group at the start of the party can also be a great opportunity to set a positive tone for day. Chances are there will be things you need to tell the group (all about the fun activities you have planned), so you can include a note about everyone joining in and having fun at the same time!

3. Make parents welcome.

Some kids with disabilities may feel more comfortable if their mum or dad attends the party, and at the same time, some parents may also feel more comfortable coming along! 

Especially for kids with anxiety, having a parent there can be reassuring – plus, parents will be attuned to ‘red flags’ that their child is becoming distressed. 

That said, plenty of parents will be happy not to attend. Either way, that initial phone call is a good time to make parents welcome, and see what they think is best.

4. Play it safe with food.

These days, food allergies and sensitivities are par for the course, which just means that options are needed! Often kids with disabilities will have specific dietary requirements - for example, many kids with autism follow a diary free/gluten free diet.

To get an idea of what food you’ll need to whip up, ask guests to let you know about any special diet requirements when they RSVP. 

Luckily there are plenty of gluten, nut, and dairy free recipes and ready-made snacks available (if in doubt, Google for ideas!). You don’t need to go overboard, just try to make sure there’s something for everyone.

5. Watch out for sensory overload.

With so much going on at a party (bright lights! Loud noises! Lots of people!), it’s easy for kids to become overwhelmed. 

For those with a disability like autism or a sensory processing disorder, things can become particularly overwhelming – so when you’re holding a party, be mindful of the level of potential chaos! 

For example, try replacing traditional balloons (which can pop loudly on their own) with foil balloons (which also happen to look great!). Also steer away from strong smells – maybe pop that scented guest soap or potpourri in the cupboard for the day.

If someone is overwhelmed and wants to sit something out, that's okay!  Setting up a dedicated ‘quiet space’ in the party can be a great idea. This way, kids who would rather do something low key (or need a break) can still have a good time. Consider setting this area up with soft lighting, cosy cushions and maybe some books or Lego.

6. Think ahead about access.

If you’re having the party at home, ask your guests’ parents about any potential access issues – for example, if they need a ramp for a wheelchair (which they may even be able bring along), or any extra to help carry any assistive device. 

If it’s being held outdoors, be mindful of surfaces like rocks and gravel that may be hard to navigate. And if you’ve opted for a public place (like a restaurant or bowling alley) be sure to check ahead that they’re accessible (the good news is, most public spaces such as these will almost always will be set up to cater for disabilities).

Have fun!

Most of all though, have fun throwing that party! Inclusion shouldn’t be stressful – it just takes a little bit of preplanning and thought. 

If you have any other questions or suggestions about making a party inclusive, we’d love to hear them – just drop us a line.


Check out our other blogs

4 things that don't cause autism
Raising a child with Down syndrome means wearing many different hats
Sensory activities for kids with disabilities 

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

Online trolls targeting people with a disability

Date Posted: Wednesday, 26 October 2016 16:02
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Many Australians have been abused by online trolls – and this includes many people with a disability. So why does this happen and what can we do?

online troll using computer

Did you ever get bullied at school? If you answered yes, you’ll understand the damage it can do. Sadly, with the introduction of the internet, bullying is even more common these days, particularly as it’s often anonymous. 

Cyber bullying, also at times called ‘trolling’, now affects one in eight Australians – and unfortunately, this includes many people with a disability. 

What is most concerning about this increase in cyber bullying and trolling is that fact it can lead to depression, social anxiety, and low levels of self-esteem. 

So why does this happen and what can we do about it? Let’s answer a few of the commonly asked questions.

What exactly is trolling? 

Well, trolls are those people who write cynical, negative, abusive, or sarcastic comments online about innocent by-standers – just because they can. 

Internet trolls are much like the mythical trolls - except they hide behind a computer screen (instead of under a bridge), and deliberately go out of their way to cause trouble by provoking, disturbing, and upsetting someone. 

Why do trolls target people with a disability? 

While no one is safe from trolls, they tend to attack people who they think are easy targets or in their minds some way “different”, vulnerable, or insecure. The reason people are seen as ‘easy targets’ is really because they don’t conform to society’s often incorrect ideas of what is “normal”. 

This may be to do with disability, race, religion or sexual orientation, or it may be because someone is famous (we’ve all heard of celebrities who’ve been viciously attacked online). 

No matter what the reason behind a troll's actions, it is never ok.

How do trolls attack?

The sad truth is, there are so many examples of trolls being abusive towards people with a disability. Here are just two stories which recently hit the headlines.

Jameson’s story

Jameson Myer, is a young boy with Pfeiffer syndrome – a condition that alters the shape of his head and face. Jameson’s mum, AliceAnn, was horrified one day when she discovered that a cute picture of Jameson which she’d innocently posted on her blog had been turned into a cruel ‘meme’, likening Jameson to a pug dog. 

AliceAnn Myers chose to send a message to her son’s trolls that would make them understand the damage they’d done.

“To everyone that “LOL’d”, shared, and posted that meme, let me start by introducing you to the child you find so funny. His name is Jameson. He is very real, and he was born with Pfeiffer syndrome.” 

Lizzie’s story

Lizzie Velasquez, is another who has had to deal with abuse from online trolls, but also one who refused to let trolls get the better of her. 

Lizzie was born with two rare conditions - Marfan and lipodystrophy – which means she is visually impaired and unable to gain weight, no matter how much she eats.

At just 17 years of age, Lizzie’s life changed forever when she found that someone had made a YouTube video of her titled ‘the world’s ugliest woman’.  The video had been watched over 4million times, and many people had left awful comments including that Lizzie should have been killed at birth.

Since then, Lizzie has embarked on a campaign to end bullying, and raise awareness of her conditions. She has established her own YouTube channel (with 240,000 subscribers), given a TED talk, and released a documentary, to inspire others to feel confident in their own skin.

So, how do you fight back? 

Unfortunately, while you might be tempted to fire back with anger, sometimes the best tactic is to ignore the trolls. 

After all, ultimately what trolls are looking for is a reaction. Deny them the pleasure of an angry reaction, and they'll probably leave you alone – in other words, don't feed the trolls.

However, there are times when it also pays to take a stance, especially if the trolling is particularly abusive and especially if it is threatening. Read on to find out how to take action.

What else can be done?

While more work still needs to be done by social networks and also changes in the legislation, there are some steps you can take if you experience trolling of any kind:

  1. Use Facebook and Instagram’s tools to unfriend, block, and report any kind of online bullying.

  2. If it’s targeted at children, report the culprit to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.

  3. If the behaviour is causing serious distress, harm, harassment, stalking, violence or includes threats to harm you, contact the police.

  4. If you witness trolling – do something about it. Reach out to the victim and ask if they’re okay. 

If you or anyone you know is being affected by trolling or cyber bullying, you can seek support from ACORN, Kids Helpline or Lifeline

Check out our other blogs

10 things not to say to someone with a disability 
7 facts about disability in the workplace
The disability parking debate

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps
Tags: bullying

10 things not to say to someone with a disability

Date Posted: Thursday, 20 October 2016 15:21
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

When it comes to chatting with someone with a disability, there are a few rookie errors (and assumptions) that people sometimes make.

Man in wheelchair talking with girl

As a general rule of thumb, talk to someone with a disability just like you’d want to be treated yourself – be polite, respectful, and interested. As for what NOT to say? Here’s a cheat sheet with a few tips.

1. “What’s wrong with you?”

Firstly remember there is nothing wrong with a person who has a disability so never ask “What’s wrong with you?”.

That aside, asking questions isn’t a bad thing as it shows you’re interested in getting to know someone. But in any conversation, asking anything overly personal is not ok, especially if it’s the first time you’ve met.

Immediately asking someone about their disability (“were you born that way?” for example) says to the person that the first thing you noticed about them was their disability.

Also imagine how you'd feel being asked about your medical history by someone you hardly knew! Not the basis for forming a great relationship, is it?

As you get to know someone better, you might start to talk their disability – but remember some people might be very comfortable talking about their disability, while others may not be, so take cues from the person themselves.

2. “It’s so good to see you out and about!” 

Many people assume that it is a mammoth struggle for people with a disability to even leave the house, or that they are not capable of leading an active, social, interesting life.

For most people with a disability, this couldn’t be further from the truth!

The other problem here is the view that people with a disability are out of place in certain spaces, like clubs. But why shouldn’t someone with a disability be on the dance floor or out having a drink with friends? Absolutely no reason that we can think of!

3. “I know a great doctor/priest, I bet he could fix you.”

Again, this is a well-meaning sentiment that comes across all wrong.

First of all, talking about “fixing” or “curing” someone’s disability immediately suggests that there’s something wrong with them, when there isn’t. Having a disability is part of many people’s identity – it's not something they see as a negative, and nor should you.

On top of all that, it’s likely that the person you’re talking to already has a strong network of medical professionals to support them, so it’s best to leave the recommendations up to them.

4. “But you’re so pretty!”

Talk about a backhanded compliment! The real problem here lies in the ‘but’. It suggests that being pretty doesn’t ‘go’ with having a disability – and that if you have a disability, you should for some reason be frumpy or unattractive.

Of course this is ridiculous. Whether a disability is visible or invisible, people with a disability can be fabulously gorgeous.

5. “Here, let me do that for you.” 

Everyone can use a little help now and then, whether they have a disability or not – so this is a bit of a tricky one.

While you might want to make things easier for someone with a disability, it’s important to respect their space and independence. A good approach is to offer to help, but don’t make it too big a deal (or be offended if your offer is turned down). There’s a big difference between offering a helping hand, and taking over.

6. “Hey BUDDY!” *Insert head pat /fist bump/ high five attempt*

For some misguided reason, people occasionally treat people with a disability like they’re children. Unless they really ARE children, this is clearly not ok!

Never assume that someone with a disability is any less intelligent or mature than you are. Excessive use of terms like ‘buddy’ and ‘sweetie’, or hair ruffling and fist bumping can come across as patronising or just plain cringe-worthy.

7. “My neighbour Amy has a disability, do you know her??”

You know that thing that happens when you’re travelling overseas, and someone asks you if you know their random friend in Australia? And of course, it’s someone you’ve never heard of, because Australia’s population is enormous? Well, this is the equivalent of that.

People with a disability don’t all know each other – there’s no secret club, so it’s not really worth asking!

8. **Ignores the fact that person with a disability is even there**

One of the ickiest things you can say to someone with a disability is to say nothing at all. Whether it’s a waiter in a restaurant or an acquaintance on the street, many people won’t even acknowledge someone with a disability – instead, choosing to address a person they’re with. This is just downright rude (after all, who likes to be spoken about as though they’re not there?!).

Also don’t ever assume someone who is non-verbal can’t understand what you’re saying. Don't be too shy to talk to them directly - if necessary, they may just use an aid such as a talking device or communication board to respond.

9. “H-E-L-L-O! HOWWWW ARE YOUUU?”

While some people slip into childlike language, others pump up the volume or start talking really s-l-o-w-l-y. However, even if the person you’re talking to has a hearing impairment, neither of these things actually help (sorry, but it’s true).

Just speak at your usual pace and volume, and make sure the person you’re talking to can see your mouth (in case they rely on lip reading).

And if they don’t understand, don’t repeat yourself over and over – just try phrasing things in a different way.

10. “You’re just sooooo inspiring.”

Once again, this is a well-meaning comment that can come across as a bit patronising. OK sure, if the person you're talking to has done something incredible, like set an ambitious goal and achieved it, then sure it’s appropriate to say they’re inspiring.

But if you’re just saying that because the person has a disability, hold your tongue – in their eyes, they’re just living their life and probably going about their day-to-day which may mean going to work, cooking dinner, and then watching the Bachelor! A great life sure – but probably not actions they feel they need praise for.

Got any other suggestions about what to say (or not say) to someone with a disability? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Check out our other blogs

10 thing not to say to someone with a mental illness 
The disability parking debate 
Sex and disability - the facts

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

7 facts about disability in the workplace

Date Posted: Friday, 07 October 2016 13:27
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

It’s not always easy for people with a disability to be part of the workforce – but, thanks to changes in the law, things are improving. 

Woman with a disability working in an office

Having a disability shouldn’t stop anyone from finding a job (and neither should discrimination!). 

However, the rights of people with a disability in the workplace can be quite confusing to understand. So we’ve taken a look at a few key facts which you may need to know.

FACT #1: In the workplace ‘disability’ is a pretty broad term.

Often when people think ‘disability’ their minds jump to people with physical disabilities such as those who use wheelchairs. But in the workplace, disability can refer to physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, neurological, and learning disabilities. Even people with Hepatitis C or HIV are counted as having a disability. 

Why is this worth noting? Well, basically it means that the laws don’t just protect people with a physical disability – they’re here for everyone who may be discriminated against due to a disability.

FACT #2: Discrimination isn't ok. In fact, it’s illegal.  

Just to recap, disability discrimination refers to people being treated unfairly (and missing out on job opportunities) just because they have a disability. 

The good news? In Australia, the law protects employees with a disability from discrimination at all stages of employment - from the initial interview right through to leaving the company.

The sad truth? Some employers do still discriminate against applicants with a disability. 

Sometimes this discrimination is more obvious, such as telling someone flat out that they won’t be considered for the job because they assume they’ll be ‘too slow’.  Other times, discrimination is more indirect – like when businesses don’t provide access for people who use wheelchairs. 

Whatever form it takes, it’s not OK.

FACT #3: There are times when an employer can refuse you a job because of your disability.

Sometimes it can be legal for a company to refuse someone a job because of their disability. This can be the case if you can’t perform the ‘inherent requirements’ of the position. In other words, you must be able to carry out the duties of the job.

These ‘inherent requirements’ will depend on the job – for instance, a person with low vision may not meet the requirements to be a delivery driver. 

But, if your disability won’t affect your performance, you deserve a fair shot – and employers aren't allowed to turn you down just because of your disability.

That’s why the laws exist – to ensure there’s an even playing field for everyone.

FACT #4: In some cases, workplaces must make changes to suit your needs.  

Sometimes, a workplace might need a few adjustments to make it accessible and safe for an employee with a disability.

Employers must make what are called ‘reasonable adjustments’ for a person with a disability who is offered a job, or to an existing employee, to make sure they can do the requirements of the job.

Perhaps a ramp needs to be installed, doorways widened to allow wheelchair access, or a bigger computer screen is necessary. If such an adjustment can be made, it’s the employer’s responsibility to make it happen.

In some cases, employers do not have to make these changes if they can show that it would be very difficult to do so, or be very high cost.

On the upside, employers don’t always have to carry to cost of these alterations. The Australian Government’s Workplace Modifications Scheme can assist where there are costs in modifying the workplace or purchasing equipment for eligible employees with disability.

FACT #5: It can be up to you if you tell your boss about your disability, or not.

You only need to tell your employer about your disability if it has the potential to endanger yourself or your co-workers, or, if it could affect your ability to do the job. 

For example, if you have epilepsy and your job involves operating heavy machinery, you need to tell your employer. 

It’s also good to keep in mind that if you do not let your employer know about any illness, disability, or injury – you may not be covered by Workers Compensation if the condition recurs or gets worse on the job.

Otherwise it’s completely up to you whether you tell anyone or not – some people prefer to keep things private, while others are comfortable sharing. The only thing worth noting is that, if you discuss your disability with your boss, he or she may be able to make changes to your workplace to make things a little easier. 

FACT #6: Your boss isn’t allowed to tell anyone about your disability, unless you say so.

That’s right: by law (the Privacy Act), your employer must keep details of your disability confidential unless you give consent.

It is up to you whether you want to tell your colleagues about your disability.

FACT #7: If you’ve experienced discrimination you’re not alone and you can take action.

If you experience discrimination don’t feel ashamed, and know you’re well within your rights to take action. 

As a first step, you might choose to raise the issue directly with the people involved, or with a manager, supervisor, or the Human Resources department. 

Or, if you’re not comfortable with this, you can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (or have a solicitor or advocate do this on your behalf). 

Your complaint to the Commission will need to be in writing, and describe when, where, what happened, and who was involved. There is a complaint form that you can fill in and post or fax back, or you can do it online. If you are not able to put your complaint in writing, the Commission can help you with this.

Share your own experiences with us in the comments section below!


Check out our other blogs

People with autism excelling in technology careers

Savant syndrome: the truth behind Rain Man 

The disability parking debate 

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

The disability parking debate

Date Posted: Wednesday, 14 September 2016 08:34
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

An alarming number of people believe the term ‘disability’ only refers to someone who uses a wheelchair – but in actual fact, 9 out of 10 disabilities are invisible.

International symbol of access

Brain injuries, congestive heart failure, lung disease, MS, neurological disorders, lupus, and arthritis are just a few disabilities which can be invisible to an outsider.

The challenge for people living with an invisible disability? Others can assume they’re ‘rorting’ the system, especially when it comes to accessible parking.

Parking vigilantes are on the rise

While it’s illegal to park in an accessible parking space without a permit (and you’ll be up for a hefty fine if you do) some people have taken it upon themselves to become parking vigilantes, trying to catch people out.

Although these vigilantes think they’re doing the right thing, they often misread the situation – shaming people of cheating the system, when in fact the person parking is perfectly entitled to use an accessible parking space.

Shockingly, it’s common for people with a disability to be verbally abused, left nasty notes, thrown filthy looks, or have their cars keyed.

Recently, Justine Van Den Borne from Melbourne who has Multiple Sclerosis, appeared in the headlines when – after parking in an accessible parking spot – she found a note on her car reading ‘Did you forget your wheelchair?’ This was despite the fact that Justine had clearly displayed her Australian Disability Parking Permit.

What this ‘do-gooder’ didn’t know was that it was a rare day when Justine could walk without assistance and had decided to spend the day out with her daughter.


In the US, a Mother and her daughter, Kaitlyn, were also shocked to find a note on their car reading, “Greetings. I observed you parking in this handicap parking place today. It appears that you are not really handicap - perhaps just in a hurry or worse, just plain lazy.”

Kaitlyn, however, has a rare genetic disorder called hypophosphatasia that leaves her bones weak and brittle. She was born with 13 bone fractures and has had dozens more since then.



It’s important to remember that if someone has an appropriate permit, it is not up for us to cast judgement. However, if you think someone is abusing the system, read on to find out what you can do.

If someone doesn’t use a wheelchair, why do they need disability parking?

Before you roll your eyes at someone pulling into an accessible parking spot, remember it’s impossible to know at a glance whether or not they require a disability parking permit.

A person who has a prosthetic limb or mobility issues may find it hard to walk long distances, others may have chronic pain or breathing difficulties which means walking can be harder.

Keep in mind that parents and carers of people with a disability can also use an accessible parking spot if they are transporting, dropping off, or picking up a person who has a permit themselves.

What should I do if I don’t see a disability parking permit on a car?

In NSW, parking in a disability space without a permit will result in a hefty $519 fine and offenders will also lose a demerit point.

If you do see an illegally parked car parked in a public space and feel the need to do something, you can report it to your local council. Local council areas can be identified on the Office of Local Government website. In privately operated car parks or shopping centres, you can also report the issue to the manager.

And remember being abusive and taking vigilante action (like damaging someone’s car) is as illegal as parking in a disabled car space without a permit.

How do you qualify for a permit?

The Australian Disability Parking Scheme (ADPS) was designed to help people with genuine mobility disabilities. And you can rest assured these permits aren’t given out lightly.

Before anyone can get a disability parking permit, they need to meet the criteria which includes providing a doctor’s certificate.

In NSW for example, guidelines state that if you use a wheelchair or other mobility aid, your physical condition is detrimentally affected by walking 100m, or if you’re permanently visually impaired, you can be granted a permit.

Once someone has a Australian Disability Parking Permit, they can park in parking spaces showing the international symbol of access and can receive concessions in most public parking spaces where the sign or meter shows specific time limits.

Share your own experiences with us in the comments section below!


Read our other blogs

10 things not to say to someone with a mental illness
6 facts you might not know about therapy animals

Sex and disability: the facts

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

4 things that don't cause autism

Date Posted: Friday, 02 September 2016 14:00
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Everything from vaccines to vitamins has been blamed for causing autism – but with all the myths flying around, how do we know what to believe? Despite the common misconceptions, these four things that current research has shown do not cause autism.

Things that do not cause autism

#1. Vaccines

This one’s not only the most popular myth, it’s also the most dangerous. The entire anti-vaccine movement was sparked by “scientific” claims in the late 1990’s. While this theory has since been categorically discredited, this hasn’t stopped the legend from living on. 

The fact is, there is no evidence that the preservative, thiomersal, can cause autism. What's more, since 2000, Australia's National Immunisation Program does not even include thiomersal in its vaccines (Department of Health).

It has also been speculated that the MMR jab (measles, mumps and rubella) could lead to autism. Again, this claim was proven to be unfounded and the data fraudulent (Department of Health).  

The scariest thing about this: it’s caused people to avoid the immunisations that have protected us from deadly diseases for years, like whooping cough, measles, or mumps. And who wants to go back to the dark ages?

#2. Parenting

Yes, seriously – it’s hard to believe, but some people actually think autism could be linked to how kids are parented.

This theory dates all the way back to the 1950’s when Bruno Bettelheim, a professor of children’s development, coined the term ‘refrigerator mothers’. He believed mothers who were cold and lacked maternal warmth, could cause their children to develop autism and related symptoms. 

This theory was dropped back in the 1970’s when experts agreed there was no compelling, scientific evidence to support the claim. 

What this theory did do though, was unfairly breed guilt in a lot of mothers who were parents to children with autism.   

#3. Diets

There’s an opinion that what you eat can contribute to the development of autism – and some food tribes, like Paleo, even believe eating a specific diet can cure it. Again, there’s no evidence to support these beliefs. 

While diet does not cause or cure autism, there are a number of parents who feel strongly that a gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet improves the behaviour of their child with autism. 

This is based on a theory that children with autism may have an allergy or high sensitivity to these foods. A number of children with autism do have gastrointestinal issues, so it is thought that changing their diet may reduce pain, and therefore improve behaviour.

While some studies do support this theory, others show no improvement at all. The upshot: more research will need to be done before concrete conclusions can be drawn on the diet front.      

#4. Television

If your kids are glued to the screen, this does not mean that they’ll develop autism. 

While headlines have claimed that ‘TV causes autism’, these only referred to a study where they found:

  • In the US, autism rates increased around the same time that cable TV appeared
  • Autism-diagnosis rates have increased more quickly in rainy places (where they assumed children spent more time indoors watching TV)

It’s a tenuous link at best and certainly doesn’t mean TV is a proven cause!

That said, if your child is diagnosed with autism, experts do recommend limiting screen time and encouraging reading and play instead. 

So if these things don’t cause autism, what does?

At the end of the day, autism is a complex disability and as far as we know there’s no single cause. Instead, it’s likely to be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors (Mayo Clinic).

What research has told us is, there do seem to be a few factors that can increase the risk of autism, such as:

  • Your child’s sex: autism is four times more common in boys than girls.

  • Family history: families who have a child with autism have an increased risk of having another child with the disorder.

  • Other disorders: children with certain medical conditions have a higher risk of autism, or autism-like symptoms (fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Tourette syndrome and Rett syndrome to name a few).

  • Extremely pre-term babies: babies born under 26 weeks may have a higher risk of autism.

While these factors may increase the risk, it is important to know that falling into one of these categories does not mean that you or your child will definitely develop autism.


Check out our other blogs

Myths about autism
Blog: Raising my son who has autism and ADHD 
Savant syndrome: the truth behind Rain Man

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

I love my culture, I'm proud to be Aboriginal: Kaedon's story

Date Posted: Wednesday, 17 August 2016 15:51
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Kaedon, 20, is a budding artist. After reconnecting with his Aboriginal roots he has gone from spraying graffiti tags to selling his own deadly paintings in a gallery.

Kaedon with his didgeridoo

When I was a kid I didn’t know much about Aboriginality and all that, not until later in life. I’m from the Kamilaroi clan, I was born and raised in Newcastle and I live with my Mum. I have nine brothers and nine sisters but they now all live on their own. 

I didn’t like school at first because I was one of the only Indigenous people around. There were a couple of us, about four or five kids who were Aboriginal and I hated it. I got suspended for punching a guy because he called me a “filthy abo”.

When I came to House with No Steps they found out a bit more about my Aboriginality. I got to make my first boomerang and didgeridoo, and I can now actually speak the Aboriginal language and do Aboriginal painting.  

Before then, I never thought I could be an artist, I couldn’t do anything except for graffiti tags and I didn’t really know how to paint. Now I can paint, make didgeridoos, make boomerangs, spears, speak my language, and actually tell people what my culture is all about. 

Pete from House with No Steps took me to all these mad Aboriginal places. I made my first didge with him, he took me out bush and also taught me how to say good bye and hello in my language. I got to chop down my own spear in the bush, I get to talk about songlines. It’s just awesome, I love going out bush and seeing rock carvings and sacred sites. 

And some of these rock carvings, if you follow a line it will point you to another carving, then that carving will point you to another carving and then so on. One of my elders told me if you go out to the site at night time you can get some fire and hold it under a carving rock and it dances and actually moves. I’m going to try it one time. It’s awesome!

I failed Japanese at school so I thought, well, I might as well master my own language. I was amazed to find out that there were over 700  Aboriginal languages spoken before European settlers came. I wonder why we should learn French and Japanese in high school when we’re not going to use that later in life, why can’t we learn Aboriginal? Because the Maoris at school in New Zealand, they get to learn their language, so how come we don’t have that? I think that’s really important to connect to our culture and our land. It’s just sad that in history we’re only taught a small section of Aboriginal culture and the rest of it is about King Henry or Hitler.

I’m slowly learning more dreamtime stories. There’s this mountain that’s really cool, it’s called Mount Yengo  and you know how most mountains are pointy, well this one’s straight flat. It’s where our ancestor Biami, the sky father stepped back up into the sky. At night time you can point out where he is, and it also tells you the seasons and when it’s time to go emu egg hunting because you can see an emu in the sky.

But if it wasn’t for House with No Steps I’d have none of this, none of this Aboriginal culture stuff. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to paint and sell painting or make my own didges. It’s so cool that I can go to caves and see where my ancestors told stories and it’s cool getting told these things by my elders. 

I’ve got a job at Aunty Elsie’s Gallery in Newcastle. I help with maintenance and I’m also an artist there and sell my own artwork. I sold my first painting ever the other day which was sick! In Aboriginal culture, each state has their different style of painting. The dotting comes from the outback and in NSW we have spirals. At the moment I’m trying to blend in graffiti with Aboriginal and I’m also starting to learn more about Polynesian work so I want to blend some of that into my artwork as well. I paint when I can and sometimes I get so focused on a painting that I forget when I’m supposed to be going into the gallery for work. 

I’m proud to be Aboriginal, proud to be Samoan, proud to be French Polynesian, and proud to be Vanuatuan and African American. I love my culture and I think we should all try and connect to our cultures no matter what.

- Kaedon


Read our other blogs

"Everyone has the right to fall in love": Dating with a disability
My life as a dad with bipolar
Raising a child with Down syndrome means wearing many different hats

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

10 things not to say to someone with a mental illness

Date Posted: Monday, 15 August 2016 13:28
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

When someone close to you has a mental illness, it’s hard to know what to say – and no matter how good your intentions, some suggestions or comments can do more harm than good. Here are ten things that are best left unsaid, and the reasons why.

Girl talking to friend

1. “It’s all in your head.”

OK, so mental illnesses are technically “in your head”, meaning that they’re caused by complex factors such as brain chemistry. But they are by no means imaginary or something anyone would choose to have – which is why this comment is so hurtful. 

Not only does this attitude trivialise the emotional symptoms of a mental illness, it ignores the many physical symptoms that mental illnesses can cause, such as tiredness, a churning gut, muscle pains, disturbed sleep, and weight loss or gain. 

2. “Just try to be positive!”

We’re surrounded by motivational quotes these days, which are great if you’re an aspiring yogi – but not so helpful if you have a mental illness. 

Suggesting that someone can treat their mental illness with a simple attitude adjustment is unfair and unrealistic – it’s a little like telling someone with diabetes to think happy thoughts instead of giving them insulin. These are serious conditions, and often require treatment to match. If only it was as simple as turning that frown upside down!

3. “Have you tried chamomile tea?”

This is the kind of well-meaning comment that many of us have made at some point when you’re desperately clutching at straws trying to think of a way to help. The fact is, though, herbal tea (or other magic wand solutions) just don't cut it when you’re experiencing a mental illness.

A nice idea, but rather than play Mr or Mrs Fix It, you’re better off to simply listen and ensure your friend has access to professional help if they need it.

4. “Everyone is a little down/moody/OCD sometimes – it’s normal.”

Often people will say “Everyone gets depressed, I was depressed for a few days last year.”

It’s true that everyone can feel a little down sometimes, or have mood swings, or get fixated on something, but, this is often not the same as having a mental illness. 

If someone is constantly told that the way they’re feeling is “normal”, they’re much less likely to seek the treatment they need. 

Instead, let the person know that they’re not alone, and there are a huge range of support groups and other resources out there.

5. “Come on, things could be worse!”

“So-and-so lost their job, was diagnosed with cancer, and accidentally ran over their cat. So don’t be sad because things could be worse.”

For people who have never experienced a mental illness, it can be hard to understand that depression and other mental illnesses often have no trigger at all. 

When you compare other people’s problems, you run the risk of belittling their experiences. And the idea that, “there are people who have it so much harder”, can worsen feelings of guilt. 

It’s not that people with depression feel ungrateful for their lives. Depression is an illness, not an attitude.

6. “This too shall pass.”

While everyone is different, it’s foolish to tell someone that their mental illness will pass on its own; or that they “just need time”. While it does take time, it often also takes professional medical treatment, and the love and care of a non-judgmental support network. 

7. “It’s all part of God’s plan.”

While of course everyone’s entitled to their own beliefs, comments like this are just not helpful. 

For one thing, the person may not share your spiritual beliefs – and even if they do, they may already feel ashamed or worried that God is somehow punishing or testing them for something they have done.

Also, for someone who is struggling with their faith or spirituality, this might actually push them further away.

And no, mental illness is not the work of ‘the devil’ or ‘being possessed’– yes, we have heard that one before too.

8. “But you have a great life, you always seem so happy!”

The reality is that many people hide their mental illness under a mask of happiness. Some may not feel comfortable to reveal how they truly feel; others might do it as a coping mechanism. 

For whatever reason, don’t assume that someone is “fine” just because they're laughing along at your jokes. You don’t know what may be going on beneath the surface, and they may be even exerting superhuman strength just to get through the day. 

And although someone may seem to have it all, depression can affect anyone, even the rich and famous - just look at Nicki Minaj, Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and so many others who have opened up about their mental illness.

9. “Snap out of it!”

This is one of the most commonly used and most dismissive comments of all. Telling someone to “cheer up” or “let it go” sends a similar message: a very “stiff upper lip” notion that depression is something to be ignored, endured, or both. 

When it comes to mental illness, there’s no magic wand. Instead, let the person know you're always willing to lend an ear—and really listen when they’re ready to talk.

10. “Suicide is so selfish.”

Suicide is a desperate act by someone who is in intense pain and wants their pain to stop. This is not a selfish response, it is a human response – a decision no one makes unless they feel there is truly no other option. 

For someone who has a mental illness and especially those having thoughts about suicide, it is so important that they are supported to get help.

What should I say?

We admit, it's not always easy to know what to say in all situations, and that's ok. Every person has their own preferences, however, here are a few things you may say to someone who has a mental illness - feel free to put your own personal spin on these as well.

"Thank you for telling me."

"Talk to me. I’m listening."

"Would you like to talk about what you’re going through? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?"

"Have you spoken to your doctor or therapist about how you are feeling?"

"I am proud of you for getting the support you need." 

"What can I do to help?" 

"This must be hard for you, but you're going to get through it."

"I am there for you, you're not alone in this."

"You are important to me."

"I love you."

A lot of the time, simply listening can be helpful. It's also important to talk to the person in the same way you have always done - they’re the same person, and letting them know your relationship is stable can be very important.

If you need to talk to someone about mental illness or a crisis in your life, please consider calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.


Check out our other blogs

10 things not to say to someone with a disability
Myths about depression

Raising awareness of mental illness - a mother's story

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

What you didn't know about Pokémon GO and disability

Date Posted: Wednesday, 10 August 2016 09:47
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Just when you thought Pokémon had seen its heyday, it’s back with a vengeance.

Catching Pokemon

It seems that all people can talk about at the moment is Pokémon GO which has swept up the world in a Pokémon-obsessed frenzy, some 20 years on from when the Japanese cartoon first launched. 

Case in point? It has already had 100 million downloads.

Like most popular trends, our first instinct is to weigh it up. Is it good for us? Is it bad for us? Is Pokémon GO going to save the world, or send it under?

Whilst we can’t answer that (yet), what we can say is there are certainly positives to this new fad, including for those with a disability.

What is Pokémon GO?

Pokémon GO is a like an online game of hide-and-seek, between you and a whole world of Pokémon characters. 

The idea is to get out and explore the world around you. Your goal? To ‘catch ‘em all’, of course! 

Using ‘augmented reality’ technology, your phone camera will reveal Pokémon right before your very eyes. And you can catch these critters by throwing Poké Balls at them!

Some areas - like your local pool, park, tennis courts, or museum may be tagged as gyms (where you can battle Pokemon with other players) or PokéStops (where you can collect supplies).

It’s an exciting game that will see you compete at real life locations, against real life opponents. 

The creator of Pokémon had autism.

Here’s a little known fact: Pokémon founder Satoshi Tajiri had autism. As a child in rural Japan, Satoshi was captivated by insects, and each day set out to, well, ‘catch them all’!

As he got older, he moved on from insect collecting to arcade video games, and at this point, became involved with gaming company Nintendo. Drawing on his childhood love of collecting insects, Taijiri envisaged a game where creatures not only were collected, but put into battle against one another. 

And so the Pokémon game was born.

Pokémon GO can help people with autism.

Some parents of kids with autism and other disabilities have been blown away at how Pokémon GO is helping their child. A Facebook post by one mother has gone viral after she talked about the change she had seen in her son since he started playing.

"After he caught his first one at the bakery, he was shrieking with excitement. He ran outside to catch more. A little boy saw him and recognized what he was doing. They immediately had something in common."

"My autistic child is socialising. Talking to people. Smiling at people. Verbalizing. Participating in pragmatic speech. With total strangers. Looking up at them. Sometimes even in the eye. Laughing with them. Sharing something in common. This is AMAZING," Lenore says.

At Aspect Hunter School in Newcastle, students with autism are actually encouraged to use the game in the classroom because the teachers have found it helps them to build social skills and their engage with their learning.

For parents however, the challenge can be keeping the virtual world out of the real one, and some level of supervision can be important here.

Pokémon GO can help people with mental illness.

Unlike your traditional video game, Pokémon GO is based on exercise, social interaction, and getting outdoors. It’s fun, it’s happy, and it sees users explore new locations they might not even know exist.

In fact, it’s these elements that have made Pokémon GO a hit with many people who have a mental illness.

It provides a motivation - and a fun one, at that! - to get outside and take up a challenge.

For those with depression or anxiety, loneliness and lethargy can be very real hurdle in the day-to-day. With Pokémon GO, the (sometimes scary) prospect of meeting new people is framed within a safe and fun environment. 

Also, it encourages people to move and exercise which is known to have a positive impact on mood, and brings on endorphins... and they never go astray.

Pokémon GO can be challenging for those with physical disabilities.

Whilst Pokémon GO has been an exciting new find for some, it has shown itself to be a frustration for others. 

For those with physical disabilities, video games are often popular - in part because exploration is much easier in virtual worlds. 

For those who use a wheelchair or have a physical disability, however, Pokémon GO can be a challenge. Much of the game relies on physical movement; moving around to catch Pokémon, visiting PokéStops and gyms, and hatching eggs (which takes up to a 10km walk).

Also some of the more sneaky and rare Pokémon can be in inaccessible areas such as up steep hills or stairs.

Aside from issues with exploration, even throwing Poké Balls requires some level of dexterity.

However, there is good news. The creators have started to bring out some devices which may help some with accessibility. For example, the Pokémon GO plus (being released in Australia in September) allows you to catch Pokémon by pressing a button, instead of swiping.

But for most users with a physical disability, Pokémon GO will take some serious edits before it’s able to be enjoyed fully.

Blogger Emily Coday wrote about her experience playing as a someone with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. 

“The game definitely feels like it was made without people with physical disabilities in mind. Being left behind by my friends in the game is frustrating and will continue being so because the playing field is not even close to level,” says Emily.

Tips and tricks!

The internet is literally crawling with tips and tricks about becoming a PokéMaster. Here are a few safety tips from us:

  • For children, appropriate parent/caregiver supervision is recommended.
  • Stay aware of surroundings while playing.
  • Be aware unsupervised users may be drawn to catch Pokémon near bodies of water, private property, or restricted areas posing a danger.
  • The app may draw strangers together in real life at 'PokéStops'. Teach users to be cautious of being lured into a bad situation.
  • Do not drive or ride bikes, skateboards, or any other devices while playing.
  • Consider playing in pairs or as a group in well-lit areas.
  • Make sure you read and understand the terms and conditions - including how the game can access your personal data.

Be safe, have fun, and good luck catching ‘em all!

Got any questions about Pokémon GO and disability? Write them in the comments section below or get in touch with our team.


Check out our other blogs

People with autism excelling in technology careers
4 things that don't cause autism
6 facts you might not know about therapy animals 

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps

6 facts you might not know about therapy animals

Date Posted: Wednesday, 27 July 2016 15:31
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

As any animal lover will tell you, furry friends can be the best kind of all. But did you know that animals can actually help people with disabilities and mental illnesses? 

Here are a few facts about therapy and service animals which you may not know.

Fact #1: Therapy dogs are nothing new

Smoky the first therapy dog

While you may have only heard about them in recent years, therapy dogs date back to World War II, when they were used to boost the spirits of recovering soldiers with PTSD.

The first official therapy dog (on record) was named Smoky: a tiny 1.8kg Yorkshire Terrier who accompanied the nurses at a hospital in New Guinea as they dealt with battlefield casualties. Smoky was so successful she went on to work as a therapy dog for 12 years, even after the war was over.

From there, other dogs followed suit, and the rest is history!

Fact #2: There’s such a thing as a therapy pig

Therapy pig

While therapy dogs spend more time in the spotlight, they are by no means the only type of therapy animal out there. Pot-bellied pigs, horses, cats, birds, guinea pigs, monkeys, llamas, and even rats can be trained as therapy or companion animals. 

Even swimming with dolphins (although controversial) has been found to help children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism with motor function, language, and attention span.

Fact #3: Animals are good for our minds and bodies

Therapy cat

It’s no secret that animals make all of us feel good – but for those with a mental illness like anxiety, depression, or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), animals can actually play a bigger role. 

Being around animals can help reduce anxiety, tension, and stress hormones, and even lower our blood pressure and heart rate. And of course, animals make people feel less isolated and alone.

More generally, even patting a dog can lower your risk of heart attack, seizure and stroke. In fact, one study showed that after someone has a heart attack, those who had a dog fared considerably better than those who didn’t.

Fact #4: Fish tanks in doctors’ offices aren’t just decorative

Fish tank main image

Ever notice that many doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms feature a lovely fish tank? Well, this isn't just because they look pretty – studies have shown that watching fish can actually also calm people down, slow heart rates, lower blood pressure, and reduce anxiety and muscle tension. 

In the USA, one organisation has taken this theme one step further – using “touch and learn” sessions with aquatic invertebrates to support kids with learning and developmental disabilities.

Fact #5: Animals can help teach kids with disabilities to read

Therapy dog helping child to read

As far as we know, animals can’t read – but that hasn't stopped them helping kids to learn how. 

Children with learning disabilities or a developmental delay can often feel self-conscious when learning to read aloud, which hampers their progress. This is where therapy animals come in: a calm, non-judgmental audience that kids can practice reading to. 

In read-to-dog programs in schools and libraries, children not only find it fun reading to a dog, but they can do so without fear of being judged for their mistakes. 

Child psychologists also believe that pets can help children learn in other ways, such as supporting kids with autism learn how to socialise. 

Fact #6: Some therapy animals start out in prison

Therapy dog

In 2002, a program began called “Pups in Prison”, which saw inmates in Australian jails paired up with budding assistance dogs. The idea? That inmates would train these dogs under the guidance of a professional dog trainer – and in doing so, learn skills to assist in their own rehabilitation. 

Similar programs have since started such as “Dogs for Diggers” at Bathurst Prison, which uses a similar approach to train rescue dogs to support returning veterans with injuries or PTSD. Both programs have been a great success, giving inmates a sense of focus and achievement – and giving the community some wonderful assistance dogs as a result. 

Fact #7: Some animals can actually calm us down and keep us safe

Therapy dog

Some mental illnesses or disabilities, such as autism, anxiety, depression, and PTSD, can trigger behaviour that’s potentially very harmful.

Special therapy dogs are trained to actually interrupt this behaviour – whether it means waking someone with PTSD up from a nightmare, using their weight to calm a person having an panic attack (a technique known as ‘deep pressure therapy’), or simply alerting their handler to a subconscious habit that they need to break.


Check out our other blogs

How animals lend a helping paw to people with disabilities
Raising a child with Down syndrome means wearing many different hats
Raising awareness of mental illness - a mother's story

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps
Tags: animals autism

Sex and disability: the facts - part 2

Date Posted: Monday, 25 July 2016 10:33
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

Here are the facts behind some of the more common misconceptions about disability and sex.

Sex and disability

There are still lots of myths about sex and disability lurking around – and we’re out to change that! So, following on from our previous post, let’s shed a little more light on this topic.

Having a disability doesn’t mean someone can’t enjoy a great sex life. Many people with a disability have fantastic sex with wonderful partners, whether it’s in the context of a long-term relationship or a fun fling.

Here are the facts behind some of the more common misconceptions about disability and sex.

Fact #1: Being in a wheelchair doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t feel ‘down there’.

How do people who use a wheelchair have sex? The simple answer is, usually in bed!

For starters, it’s important to remember that people who use wheelchairs may do so for a range of reasons. This means that many people can still have full sensation and control ‘down there’ – including those with spinal cord injuries (SCI).

However, for some people, their disability can impact sexual function such as a loss or change in sensation, difficulty controlling the muscles, and some men may not be able achieve or maintain an erection.

Even so, some people who don’t have feeling below the waist can still have an orgasm from the more ‘traditional’ sexual activities. Women with an SCI for example, report feeling the orgasm they had before their injury, except only in part of their body, such as above their waist.

Each person simply needs to get to know their own body and learn how it reacts to certain situations.

Fact #2: Sex is not just all about each other’s ‘privates’

Even if someone can’t get an erection or have an orgasm in the ‘traditional’ sense, there’s absolutely no reason they can't enjoy sex. 

People with spinal cord injuries have reported experiencing great pleasure from stimulation in areas like the arms, earlobe, neck, cheek and nipple – so much so that it can even lead to orgasm!

A lot of sexual pleasure is about what happens in the brain too. There are all sorts of ways to enhance this, whether it’s through fantasies, relaxation, meditation or breathing techniques. It’s all just a matter of working out personal turn-ons and turn-offs – and the best way to do this is with a loving partner you trust!

Fact #3: People with a physical disability don’t just “lie there” 

Having a physical disability doesn’t mean you can’t play an active part in sexual shenanigans! Of course, while some positions may be tricky, there are many things that can help overcome the physical challenges – from using aids like wedges, sliding chairs, or swings, to finding a bed or table that’s at just the right height. Even a wheelchair can be a great aid itself. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Fact #4: People with a disability can and do use sex workers

The rights of people with a disability to choose to be with a sex workers has been quite topical with movies such as The Sessions staring, John Hawkes and Helen Hunt being released. 

While the specific laws differ state to state, prostitution is legal in most places in Australia – and there’s no ‘rule’ excluding people with a disability from using their services. In fact, there are organisations who specifically train their staff to cater for people with a disability, for example, Touching Base and Rachel Wotten of Scarlet Road.

Of course, choosing to be with a sex worker is a very personal thing, but it’s not black and white and there’s certainly no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to this scenario.

Fact #5: People with disability can identify as LGBTQI too

It should go without saying that as with any part of the community, people with a disability can and do identify as LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex). However, as sometimes people with a disability are incorrectly seen as being asexual, people forget this fact! 

Sexuality and sexual preference is a very personal thing. Some people are attracted to the opposite sex, some have a same sex attraction, and others are attracted to both sexes. 

We’ll be revisiting this topic down the track in an upcoming blog, so keep your eyes pealed!

Got any other questions or myths about sex and disabilities? Post them in the comments section below or get in touch with our team


Check out our other blogs

Sex and disability: the facts - part 1 

"Everyone has the right to fall in love" - Dating with a disability 
Taboo questions about disability - part 1

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps
Tags: sex taboo dating

"Run Forest, Run!": Disability stereotypes in the media

Date Posted: Wednesday, 20 July 2016 12:33
Posted By: Nadia Pocock

The media has a long track record of using stereotypes to portray people with disabilities. These stereotypes can be negative or positive – but either way, they’re rarely true to life.

Tiny Tim main image

Although these days we’re seeing more realistic portrayals of people with a disability in the media, common stereotypes still tend to stick around much more than they should. 

Our challenge to the media: let’s move away from these stereotypes and instead represent people with disabilities as three-dimensional people, not caricatures. 

Let’s also see more roles, even leading roles, played by someone with a disability. The sad fact is, only 1% of actors on TV (and we would assume other media too) have a disability (GLAAD). But, there’s no reason that people with disabilities shouldn’t be represented in all forms of media, from acting to modelling. 

So what are some of the more common stereotypes that get thrown around? Here are a few you may recognise…

Stereotype #1: The villain

Throughout history, books and films have drawn strong links between disabilities and evil or depravity. There are countless examples of “baddies” with disabilities: from Captain Hook, to Shakespeare’s Richard III, to most of James Bond’s arch-enemies (watch the video above). 

It’s also not uncommon for the villain to have a mental illness (as well as a particular tendency towards violent crime) – from the escapee of the town ‘institution’, to the Joker in The Dark Knight who is said to have schizophrenia. Read our myths about schizophrenia article which debunks the link between schizophrenia and violence.

Possibly this stereotype has been driven by a historical unfamiliarity about people with disabilities, but whatever the reason, it’s not a healthy or helpful trend.

Stereotype #2: The superhero

Meme: Your excuse is invalid

On the flipside, there’s the superhero: an inspirational character who is actually seen to be extraordinary or heroic just because of their disability. 

News stories and online memes are big culprits of this stereotype, where a person with a disability is glorified. Many people with disabilities are just as capable as everyone else, and don’t need gushing praise for simply living their lives.

Then there’s also the ‘disability superpower’, where fate has removed one ability, but in turn enhanced another. The hero in Daredevil, for instance, is blinded by a radioactive substance, and while he can no longer see, his other senses are heightened giving him ‘radar sense’. 

While these might seem more positive stereotypes than some others, they’re still not accurate – and can be more than a little patronising. 

Stereotype #3: The victim

Another common scenario is where a person is seen as pitiful or helpless, just because they have a disability. 

There are too many examples of this stereotype to list, but a few include Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, John Merrick in the Elephant Man, Tiny Tim in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and even news reports which describe people as ‘victims’ or ‘sufferers’. 

In all these cases, a character’s disability (often combined with a particularly endearing personality) is used to gain sympathy from the audience – rather than genuine compassion. This is certainly an example of focusing on the disability, not the person.

Stereotype #4: The butt of the joke

This one is a particularly harmful stereotype, and one that’s disturbingly common. 

Making a mockery of people’s differences is cowardly at best, but unfortunately many films and TV shows use it as a way to get cheap laughs – from Mary’s brother Warren in “There’s Something About Mary”, to Ken’s stutter in “A Fish Called Wanda”. Even Barack Obama in the video above makes a joke about bowling in the Special Olympics!

Also modern day TV ‘documentaries’ such as Embarrassing Bodies, poke fun at or ridicule disability or medical conditions for entertainment value. 

People with disabilities have also long been ridiculed in comedy shows too – with the R-word being used much too often. On a lighter note, though, some comedians who actually have disabilities are now redressing the balance – using their performances to poke fun at themselves and raise awareness about disabilities in a humorous but respectful way (Adam Hills, Josh Blue and Alex Brooker are a few examples).

Stereotype #5: Eternally innocent

In many films, characters are depicted as being angelic or childlike, simply because they have a disability. Forrest Gump, I am Sam, and Rain Man are all great examples. 

Often the naïve and sweet character with a disability, reveals the flaws of their ‘normal’ adult peers – leading to them finding redemption. 

Like all the other stereotypes we’ve looked at, this one is harmful mainly because it’s inaccurate – and reinforces patronising perceptions that are simply not true. 

Got any questions about disability stereotypes? Write them in the comments section below. 

Take a look at our myths about disabilities series where we challenge common misconceptions about disability.


Check out our other blogs

Savant syndrome: the truth behind Rain Man 
Taboo questions about disability: part 1 
Let's end the R-word 

Find out more about disability services at House with No Steps
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