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An Accessible NDIS: learning from people with an intellectual disability about what needs to change.

Our Voice chair Kalena Bos reports back from the DSC NDIS Conference in Sydney

Kalena Bos ahead of her speech at the DSC NDIS Conference

The NDIS is now 10 years old. With the Independent Review of the NDIS underway we are likely to see some significant changes.

DSC’s NDIS Conference took place in Sydney in June. The two-day conference was an opportunity to hear from people who will help shape the future of the NDIS.

Kalena Bos is the current Chair of Inclusion Australia’s Our Voice Committee and an Inclusion Australia board member. She is a member of the Speak out Association of Tasmania.

Kalena represented the intellectual disability community at the conference, presenting on, ‘An Accessible NDIS: Learning from people with an intellectual disability and what needs to change’.

She said one word to sum up the conference would be “fancy”! On the first day Kalena walked into the main room and was shocked by how many people were there. There were over 1,000 people attending in person and online. “I felt like I was going on TV! There was a dressing room, and an area for speakers to wait before going on stage”.

As well as her own experience navigating the NDIS, Kalena was representing the work that Our Voice members have been doing around the country over the past year. This includes asking people with an intellectual disability about the NDIS and what needs to change. “Navigating the NDIS can be hard and stressful. Participants do not feel like they are being heard,” Kalena told us. “Because of these issues, people with an intellectual disability are not getting what they need from their NDIS plans.”

Kalena attended the conference with Maeve Kennedy, Senior Manager of Policy and Projects at Inclusion Australia. They identified things that could be helpful, including:

  • More information about what you can ask to be included in your NDIS plan.
  • Asking the right questions can help individuals meet their needs.
  • Easy Read Guides to make information easier to understand.
  • Easy Read NDIS plans.
  • Making the NDIS call center, website, and portal more accessible.
  • Treating people with a disability just like everybody else.

Kalena was also very interested to hear about the new NDIS Supported Decision Making policy. “Supporting decisions shows respect and understanding.” she told us. “I’m looking forward to finding out what the new policy means for people with disability and how it will work.”

Kalena with Senator Jordan Steele-John

Two other speeches at the conference stood out for Kalena. Senator Jordon Steele-John’s speech about a fair, accessible, and fully funded NDIS resonated with her. She also found Bill Shorten’s speech interesting. He spoke about how the NDIS is changing lives. And that participants can be reassured that the goal is to improve the system and not just save money. Kalena also enjoyed the speeches about quality and safeguarding and the Royal Commission.

This was also Kalena’s first time travelling alone. She told us she enjoyed seeing the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge for the first time. This was especially exciting as it was lit up with the Vivid Festival lights.

Kalena was very proud of herself. “I cried after my speech. People came up to me to say congratulations. Mostly from the Council for Intellectual Disability, and I cried even more. But in a way that I was thankful”.

Reflecting on the conference, Kalena said “the NDIS Review is a good chance to fix things and I am looking forward to seeing what happens”.