Inclusion Australia’s CEO, Catherine McAlpine, spoke with The World Today about the experiences of people with disability during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the latest Disability Royal Commission public hearing.

Catherine said she hopes the public hearing will “shine a light on the disproportionate restrictions experienced by people with disability, particularly people with intellectual disability during the pandemic.”

She said, “We saw things like service providers imposing more rigid rules than experienced by the rest of the population at any stage of any lockdown.”

Catherine also points out that the government was slow to react and put measures in place to protect and support people with disability during the pandemic.

“It took quite some time, a number of weeks for government to acknowledge that people with disability were at risk in the same way that older Australians were at risk of COVID.”

While Catherine is hopeful that the Disability Royal Commission will highlight the issues that people with disability have faced throughout the pandemic, she has concerns about their ability to speak up for themselves.

“There is going to be a number of great people who are going to speak in the next four days. They are going to bear witness to the experience of people with disability, especially people with intellectual disability during the pandemic, but we’re not going to be hearing from people with intellectual disability themselves and the question is why? And the answer is, because they don’t feel safe and they don’t feel safe to tell their stories.”

Catherine said the Royal Commission has not found a way for people with disability to feel safe.

“How can you come out and talk about the experience of being kept away from your loved ones or kept in your room during the pandemic when the pandemic is still going and you’re still being kept in the room by the same provider.

What are we doing to make sure these stories are going to be told?”

You can listen to the full interview on The World Today website.