Media Release: NDIS Correspondence is Now Accessible to People who are Blind or Vision Impaired

Thanks to strong advocacy by Blind Citizens Australia, its members and partner organisations, participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme will now receive correspondence in their preferred format.

The NDIA will progressively introduce changes over the next few months which will allow participants to choose their preferred communication format and update their preferences via an NDIA representative, the National contact centre, or on the Participant Portal. Large font, audio, e-text and braille formats will be available.  

The NDIA expect to move to automated requests for correspondence in alternative formats by the end of August 2019.  Requested documents will be sent directly to an external accessible format provider who will prepare the accessible version and despatch directly to the NDIS Participant to reduce delays.

Up to now requests for alternative formats have been managed by NDIA planners via a manual process and participants often report delays and difficulty in getting correspondence in their chosen format.  Print copy plans and letters are currently generated automatically and staff must intervene manually where needed to support a participant’s preference. This has resulted in an inconsistent approach long delay before a participant receives the alternative format.

“This is a tremendously important step forward for people who are blind or vision impaired. Blindness is often referred to as an information-based disability. Access to information is often the only thing that prevents a person who is blind or vision impaired from carrying out tasks and activities that they otherwise could,” said Rikki Chaplin, Acting CEO Blind Citizens Australia.

“To be able to easily read your NDIS plan is vital if you’re going to be able to take full advantage of the supports in your plan. I congratulate the NDIA on ensuring that people who are blind or vision impaired will have reliable and consistent access to their plans in the format which is right for them.”

The NDIA has committed to continuous improvement and will seek feedback by engaging with peak bodies such as BCA and with the Participant Reference Group.

Read the full media release here (Word version)

Please let us know if you’d like this information in another format for accessibility.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr Morrison,

In your victory speech on Saturday night, you said that you would govern for “all Australians”. That statement gave many people with disability hope that they would have a stronger voice and that their needs would be given higher priority by your Government in this parliamentary term.

Blind Citizens Australia believes there are three opportunities for you to demonstrate, quickly and decisively, your commitment to governing for “all Australians”.

  1. End the inequality which sees Australians who are blind or vision impaired denied the right to watch television while people who are deaf or hearing impaired have their right to do so enshrined in legislation;
  2. Appoint a suitably qualified person with disability as CEO of the NDIS to ensure the needs and aspirations of people with disability are central to decision-making; and
  3. Review the appointments of Commissioners to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, to replace those Commissioners with actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

Audio Description

For over twenty years now, we have been advocating for Audio Description, an additional audio track which provides us with details of action and scenery so we can enjoy television like other Australians. During the election campaign, Labour committed $4 million in funding to the ABC and SBS for the establishment of an Audio Description service, yet to date, your party has remained silent on the issue.

You got your miracle on Saturday night, now you have the opportunity to “pay it forward” and ensure we have the same access to television as people who are deaf or hearing impaired in this country. That would constitute a miracle for us and would be a visible way to demonstrate your commitment to governing for “all Australians”.

A Disability-led NDIS

Blind Citizens Australia works actively and constructively with the NDIA to ensure our NDIS provides choice and control for participants whilst remaining economically sustainable. We are confident that, if led by a skilled and highly qualified executive with disability, the culture of the scheme would better reflect our needs and aspirations. After all, you wouldn’t put a teacher in charge of a bank, and so it is inconceivable that you would put a non-disabled person in charge of a scheme designed to ensure people with disability have the capacity to lead their best life.

What’s more, there is no doubt that leaders with the management experience and business acumen exist. You need only look to the Disability Leadership Institute, or to members of disabled persons organisations like ours for examples of the talent within our community. So, give us a go so that we, the experts, can work with you to get the NDIS working better for us.

Royal Commission

When you announced the Royal Commission into the epidemic of violence and abuse against us over many years, people with disability, our organisations and supporters were relieved and hopeful. Now that the election is over, we trust that you will heed our calls to review the appointment of two Commissioners, whose conflicts of interest threaten the integrity of the Royal Commission process. This is essential if we are to be confident that we can give evidence safely.

Mr Morrison, congratulations to you and your colleagues on your re-election. On behalf of the members of Blind Citizens Australia, and the thousands of people who are blind or vision impaired that we represent, we wish you all the very best for your upcoming term as our Prime Minister.

People with disability, more often than not, are the quiet Australians you spoke of in your campaign. We want nothing more than the right to live, work and play in communities which acknowledge our rights and afford us safety. We’re taking your advice; we’re having a go like most Australians, but we are tired. Tired of having to fight just to be allowed to watch TV with our family and friends, with no indication of when that might change. Tired of not being considered sufficiently talented, economically responsible or experienced to lead our own insurance scheme. Tired of having to fight for the right to give evidence safely in our own Royal Commission.

Despite all our best efforts to work collaboratively with your Ministers and Government agencies, people with disability are not getting a fair go right now. But like you, we believe in miracles, so we look forward to working with you to see ours come to fruition during your first 100 days in Government.

We remain ready, willing, and well able to support you in achieving the next miracle. 

Yours sincerely

Emma Bennison
Chief Executive Officer
Blind Citizens Australia

South Australia: Accessing the Support You Need – Workshops on the NDIS and My Aged Care

Are you interested in learning more about accessing support through the NDIS or My Aged Care?
Regardless of whether you’re still looking at joining one of the schemes or whether you’re already receiving support, if you have questions that you’d like to discuss we’d love for you to come along and join us.

The workshops will cover topics such as:
• Becoming a participant of the NDIS or My Aged Care
• The planning process
• Receiving support
• Assistive Technology
• Accessing information in alternate formats
• There will also be plenty of time to ask questions

We will be running one session on the NDIS and one on My Aged Care concurrently to ensure the information is tailored to your needs.
These workshops are part of the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building work that BCA is undertaking in South Australia, which have previously been offered in New South Wales, Victoria and by teleconference (we have received great feedback from people who have participated). As Blind Citizens Australia is not registered to provide services under the NDIS or My Aged Care we are in a unique position to provide you with information that will enable you to make decisions about how and where you receive the support that best meets your needs.

Location: Royal Society for the Blind, 230 Pirie Street, Adelaide, South Australia 5000

Times:
Friday, 12th April 2019 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Saturday, 13th April 2019 9:30am – 12:30pm

Presenters:
Angela Jaeschke, National Policy and Advocacy Manager, Blind Citizens Australia
Sally Aurisch, NSW / ACT Coordinator, Blind Citizens Australia

For further information or to register, please contact Jennifer Parry on 1800 033 660 or jennifer.parry@bca.org.au with the date of the workshop you would like to attend and whether you are interested in the NDIS or My Aged Care.

In the Scheme of Things

By Kristin Nuske

 

Listen to the audio

Editor’s Note

Kristin Nuske has worked for BCA since February this year, providing support and advice to Victorians who are challenged by aspects of dealing with the NDIS or My Aged Care. More recently, she has begun providing support to members nationwide.

This support includes, but is not limited to, accessing information regarding the Scheme or My Aged Care, and whether someone could consider accessing, or may be eligible for either. Here, she discusses some of the challenges faced by members she has been assisting with NDIS planning and participation. A future article will explore issues relating to My Aged Care in similar detail.

* * * * *

In March this year, I attended a panel discussion at the State Library as part of the Bold Series presented by Latrobe University. The panel broadly examined the NDIS since its roll out began in the Geelong trial site in 2013.

The conversation brought to my attention some of the roadblocks which are preventing the scheme from delivering on its promises. A lady in the audience raised a point, based on her experience as a Support Coordinator. She stated that in the time that she had worked at the organisation she represented, they had received more than 80 plans. It wasn’t clear whether a Local Area Coordinator or an NDIS planner facilitated them, but every one of those plans required a review.

In my role at BCA, I have seen a similar trend. Many of the members who I have had contact with share their experiences, most of which have warranted complaints. These complaints range from difficulties accessing information, to disappointment with their allocated Planner in their first meeting.

Accessing information seems to be a challenge for many of us. When I called the NDIA and asked for information to be provided in large print, I was told that the request was emailed to the print department while I waited on the telephone. Four months later, the information has still not arrived.

If you have made a request to either the NDIS or My Aged Care for information in an alternative format, and it has been responded to positively and swiftly, or you have not been treated as you expect and/or not provided with accessible information, please let us know of your experience.

The NDIS has, for many reasons, not approved items or reasonable and necessary supports once a plan has been prepared. Once complaints which relate to not funding supports have been made final through a “review of a reviewable decision” process, they may be brought to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, (AAT).

Sara Dingold from Disability Services Consulting recently wrote that as of March this year, some 757 cases have been referred to the AAT. This assures further delays for participants trying to activate their planned supports. An investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman into the nature and number of reviews by the NDIA found that as of February, it was dealing with about 8,100 reviews and receiving about 620 new review requests per week.

Assistive technology and equipment are funding areas that have impacted many people who are blind or vision impaired. Assistive technology specialists or occupational therapists are generally relied upon to help select the most appropriate pieces of equipment, and provide quotes and a report outlining why these items are reasonable and necessary according to the NDIS Act.

One of our members, Liz, after quotes for her items had been submitted, was shocked by a comment from her occupational therapist. “I was told to expect not to hear for three to four months whether the items were to be approved,” she said.

In fact, one of the items, a pair of prescription sunglasses, was not approved because the NDIS claimed that this was an everyday item. How is this so, when Liz experiences extreme glare and visual disruption resulting from her vision impairment?

Liz contacted BCA to see if we could provide some support to her, as she felt aspects of her experience since she has become an NDIS participant needed some attention. “Although it can be daunting to speak up,” she said, “it is worth doing in order to create a better system.” At this point, the issues Liz raised in a complaint, care of her MP, have not yet been responded to or resolved by a delegate from the NDIA.

Another person contacted me recently who is now in his second year as a participant. His gripe is that he continues to wait after almost a year to have items approved. After 18 months this gentleman has only accessed transport from his plan. This is largely due to the reporting by the Assistive Technology Specialist not satisfying the NDIA’s reporting and supportive evidence requirements.

One last issue, and general complaint, relates to the language and context used in important documents such as a person’s individual plan. The assumption is that one can understand the ideas presented, and what dollars relate to the various supports one requires. This is indeed not the case for Liz. “The language that was presented in my plan I believe is a barrier to being able to move forward with implementing my supports,” she said.

Despite all the problems I’ve described, the overall impression I drew from the panel I attended in March was that the NDIS is a good policy, and we need to remain optimistic. On the surface there is a will and a want to see the NDIS deliver the supports that individuals may need to live the best life that they can.

NDIA CEO Rob De Luca has acknowledged some of the inconsistencies in the delivery of the scheme. “We realise that improvements are still needed to make sure that the participant experience is consistently positive,” he wrote in a recent report.

In an effort to address problems like those described here, De Luca has committed to consulting with a number of service providers, and met in September with BCA’s CEO, Emma Bennison. This meeting represents an encouraging step in the right direction.

We agree there is no smooth sailing, but many bumps in the road. It is only the courage and persistence of many voices that will create a system that can be benchmarked across the world.

Editor’s Note

Don’t forget that as well as assistance for Victorians, Kristin can now offer telephone assistance with accessing the NDIS or My Aged Care to people who are blind or vision impaired nationally. For further information or to discuss the sorts of assistance that can be provided, please call BCA on 1800 033 660, or email kristin.nuske@bca.org.au.

 

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Accessing the Support you Need – Teleconferences

Over the coming weeks, Blind Citizens Australia will be running a series of 2-hour teleconferences, titled Accessing the Support You Need. These teleconferences will provide information on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and My Aged Care and will cover topics such as:

  • Eligibility and accessing the programme
  • Preparing for and participating in your planning meetings / assessments
  • Supports and services available to you under the programme
  • Accessing assistive technology
  • What you can do if your needs are not being met
  • Complaints and Feedback

Teleconferences will be held at the following times:

National Disability Insurance Scheme
20th June, 1:00pm – 3:00pm AEST
23rd June, 10:00am – 12:00pm AEST
26th June, 7:00pm – 9:00pm AEST

My Aged Care
4th July, 2:00pm – 4:00pm AEST
10th July, 7:30pm – 9:30pm AEST
22nd July, 2:00pm – 4:00pm AEST

If you would like to participate in one of these, please contact Sally Aurisch – Project Officer on sally.aurisch@bca.org.au or 1800 033 660 with the details of the session you are interested in. You will then be provided with the required dial in details for your chosen teleconference.