Support makes inclusion within everyone’s ability
Young people with disability should not be afraid to say “yes” to support so they can enjoy life on their terms, according to the face of Travellers Aid’s new advertising campaign.
The new outdoor ad campaign, supported by Kinetic, encourages people to get out and make the most of Melbourne, knowing support is there if needed
But disability advocate and podcaster Peta Hooke knows it’s not always easy for an independent young person to ask for support.
“I think it’s very common for people with disability to feel like we’re in the way or it can be quite a challenge to even consider yourself as someone who needs support or assistance,” Peta says.
“Speaking for myself as somebody with an obvious disability and who is very proud to be a disabled person, it does take me a lot to ask for support.”
Peta says she agreed to front the campaign because she loves Melbourne and wants people with disability to be able to access all the great venues and events it offers.
“I am so sick of having to worry about how I’m going to get to a certain event and saying, ‘no, sorry, I can’t go’,” she says.
“When I think back to when I was in my early twenties, the number of social events that I said ‘no’ to … it’s just not fair and I don’t want that to be the way it is going forward.”
Sometimes the logistics and planning involved with an outing can make it seem easier to say ‘no’, Peta says.
This includes plotting out whether she can access a venue with her wheelchair, if the transport needed to get there has accessible platforms, and – if the transport doesn’t link up – the time and energy needed to wheel herself long distances. If the venue does not have an accessible bathroom, she knows her time at the event will also be limited.
Peta first discovered Travellers Aid when she heard about the accessible bathroom being installed in their services hub at Southern Cross Station. Even then she wasn’t sure Travellers Aid’s services were for someone like her.
“At the time I didn’t realise that they were for someone my age,” the 33-year-old says.
“Now I think it’s great knowing there is a support base there if I do need it.”
Travellers Aid’s support hubs at Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations can be reassuring bookends to a trip into town. Services include buggy or wheelchair assistance within stations, accessible bathrooms, meal heating facilities, and mobility equipment hire. Visitors also like to use them as a quiet place to rest.
Peta talks about her experience of cerebral palsy and interviews others with disability for her weekly I Can’t Stand Podcast. She also provides disability advocacy and consulting services to private organisations.
With qualifications in travel and tourism, combined with her experience of navigating public transport in a wheelchair, Peta has plenty of ideas for making travel more accessible.
While it’s great to have support available through services such as Travellers Aid, she says prioritising the timeline for accessible tram stops, closing legal loopholes that allow businesses to avoid making premises accessible, and improving safety and security for public transport would make a huge difference for the one in five people who have disability.
Peta hopes young people with disability will see Travellers Aid’s ad campaign as encouragement to seize every opportunity to live life on their terms.
“I really hope that people can simply say ‘yes’ to living their life the way they want to and not be restricted because of access barriers that many of us face every day,” she says.
“I’m really excited that organisations like Travellers Aid exist and that they’re helping us be able to access the community just like everybody else.”
If you need advice for planning your next trip into the city, check out our article on Transport accessibility tips for independent Melbourne Travellers.