NEIL’s Story

Ability SDA Specialist Disability Apartment

Being in a wheelchair has changed my life in a number of ways, but it hasn’t stopped me from playing sport competitively. For years I’ve played Boccia with my teammates through Disability Sports Australia. I love the thrill of competition!

Boccia was first introduced as a competitive sport at the New York 1984 Paralympic Games. Initially, only athletes with cerebral palsy played, but today the sport attracts national and international talent with a variety of conditions. If I’m not on the Boccia field, you’ll probably find me with a game console in my hands; which is almost—but not quite—as much fun.

My Cerebral Palsy means, I’m in a wheelchair, but I do have partial use of the left side of my body. At 39, I’ve spent most of my life living with my parents and younger sister. I was born in Adelaide but we moved up to the Central Coast when I was 8 years old and have been here ever since.

My parents have always been exceptional supports. Despite their best efforts, however, there were parts of our house I couldn’t access: the laundry, garage, and parts of the kitchen. It’s incredibly difficult and at times frustrating to live in a home you can’t ever be fully comfortable in. Because the space just doesn’t work properly for you, you’re constantly faced with barriers and reminders of what you can’t do.

One of my carers told me about Ability SDA and I was immediately intrigued by the possibility of independent living in my own space. The idea of a fully accessible home with integrated Assistive Technology, a space that would help me feel free and independent for the first time in my life, was simply too good an opportunity to pass up. I remember feeling so excited about the whole thing.

I questioned whether I’d be eligible for the SDA funding needed to live in an Ability Apartment though. All I could do was hope. I was totally unfamiliar with the process; my first step was taking Ability SDA’s Guide to Eligibility quiz. Luckily, I had a super organized and supportive team behind me as we moved into the complexities and challenges of the NDIS Application process. Everyone pitched in to help me get through it: my parents, LAC, and key support team. At the end of it all, I found the application process easier than expected and I credit that to having incredible help.

Once I was approved and officially assigned an apartment, I organized rosters for my supports and routine charts for the SIL staff and new workers on my team. I visited the local chemist to coordinate my medications to organize my medications and checked out the shops near the building to plan out my weekly shopping routines and budgets. I was, and still am, so impressed by the location of the apartment; everything I need to live comfortably and independently is right outside my front door. Ability SDA thought of everything when they selected the spot for the building! Public transport is easily accessible and there’s plenty of local parking too.

I found the process of setting up my own apartment really exciting. I loved buying new appliances and furnishings, knowing that I was creating a space for myself to enjoy. My absolute favourite aspect of the apartment is the integrated technology and the impact it’s had on my daily life. Things that used to be on my “can’t” list, are now on my “can” list. Even better is that most of these are things I can now do unassisted. I don’t need to rely on my support staff as much as I thought I would.

The level of independence I have now is life-changing. If you’re reading this and wondering (as I did) whether this could be a possibility for you too, I would strongly encourage you to apply. As long as you follow the process and have an organized team to help you along, you could be living the type of life I now get to live and enjoy. I love having my own space!

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