Considering Disability As Functional Difference in the Diversity Discourse in Australia

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Seminar 52 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Judith MOYLE, Deakin University, Australia
Over the last decade, Australia has undertaken one of the greatest sociological revolutions in the history of disability care.  The question raised in this Paper is whether the introduction of the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme Act (2013) has unwittingly led to the enshrinement of DIS/ability as a distinct and permanently separate ‘othering’, or is there still room to replace ‘DIS/ability’ terminology and move toward celebration of functional difference in the diversity discourse?

From the time the Australian disability community started searching for a way to provide a more equitable service system, and a National Disability Insurance Scheme was first mooted, debate has hovered uncomfortably around whether acceptance, equality, relationship and inclusion can be crafted through legislation.  Although many had hoped to move the perception of people living with a vast array of functional impairments (currently bundled together into the DIS/ability domain), into the broader embrace of the diversity discourse, a burgeoning disability budget drove a powerful alternative productivity-led debate down a different pathway.  The felt - need for greater equity and fairness within the disability service system itself somehow drowned out the emerging desire for a change in the perception of people living with functional impairments, to be embraced and celebrated within the diversity population that the rest of the community enjoy.

The passionate intention of many well-meaning leaders in the consumer advocacy movements was to reduce structural discrimination and inequity in the funded service sector, while at the same time promoting inclusion and participation in preferred community based activities.  The inevitability, however, of attempting to partner a government-led productivity-based structural revolution with a utopian dream of authentic community relationships has begun to be felt in the disappointments of many who dreamed of welcome and acceptance, but have discovered little change in attitudes of discrimination and exclusion.