Central Coast Council has joined the ‘think outside the chair’ movement with a pilot awareness campaign to challenge community perceptions and change attitudes and behaviours towards people with invisible disabilities (also known as hidden disabilities).
Central Coast Council Director Community and Recreation Services, Mel Smith said invisible disabilities may not be immediately apparent.
“People with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments and each have specific needs. Accessible public toilets and car spaces are not exclusive for those with only seen disabilities or impaired mobility,” Ms Smith said.
“In Australia, 90 percent of the 4.4 million people with disabilities are living with an invisible disability. Unfortunately, those living with hidden disabilities can experience confrontation and abuse from uninformed people when using accessible toilets or car spaces – because their disabilities may not be obvious.”
“We all have a part to play in creating a truly inclusive and accessible community for people living with disabilities. Of the highest importance is in our attitudes and behaviours.
“By increasing community awareness of invisible disabilities, we hope to bring necessary change to behaviours and attitudes to improve inclusion and respect.”
Council Administrator, Rik Hart said the Central Coast is home to a diverse and growing community.
“Council is committed to continuous improvement of accessibility, inclusivity and liveability within the local community,” Mr Hart said.
“A key strategy of Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan is to promote positive and contemporary attitudes and behaviour towards people with a disability, which in turn will result in inclusive actions.”
“I’m pleased that this project delivers on this action and seeks to improve positive outcomes for people with a disability so they can fully participate in day-to-day community life and feel welcome.”
Some ways we can help improve inclusivity for people with invisible disabilities:
- Whilst it is illegal to park in an accessible parking space without a permit, please remember that not all disabilities are visible. As long as their permit is clearly displayed and the vehicle is transporting the eligible cardholder, these drivers can park in these spaces and don’t need to explain their disability to the public*.
- There are many reasons why someone who doesn’t ‘look like they have a disability‘ might need to use an accessible toilet. Be considerate and kind! Whilst it’s not illegal to use an accessible toilet if you don’t have a disability and don’t need to use one, please leave them free for those who do.
- Share the message! Repost the campaign image from our social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and help the Coast become more inclusive. #thinkoutsidethechair
*In NSW, a mobility parking permit allows a driver to park in spaces showing the international symbol of access for people with disability. The vehicle needs to be transporting the eligible cardholder and displaying the permit correctly. For more information, visit the NSW Government website.
As part of raising awareness in this pilot project, campaign signage will be installed at Westfield Tuggerah, and in public toilets and community facilities across the Central Coast. Council will consider rolling out the campaign to other locations in 2022-23 following evaluation of the campaign.
View campaign videos and FAQS on Council’s website.
To read Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2021-2025 and for more information on how Council is helping to improve accessibility and inclusion for those with a disability, visit Council’s website.