Media

United blindness sector eyeballs parliamentarians on NDIS

MEDIA RELEASE

Vision 2020 Australia and member organisations have come together to provide a united voice to ensure the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is fair, equitable and meets the needs of people who are blind or who have functional vision loss.

Responding to the Senate inquiry into the draft NDIS Bill, Vision 2020 Australia notes the legislation in its current form means that people with real needs may miss out on support because of their age or level of vision loss and the challenges presented by an insufficient appeals process.
 
“Eighteen leading eye health and blindness organisations from across the nation support the Vision 2020 Australia submission that calls on parliamentarians to ensure people do not fall through cracks in the system,” Vision 2020 Australia CEO, Ms Jennifer Gersbeck said.
 
“Senior Australians have a right to services and support to cope with the impact of blindness on their lives – but right now neither the NDIS nor the aged care reforms cover them.
 
“Similarly, there remain concerns that people whose functional vision loss impacts on daily life, such as loss of driving licence or employment, the ability to get information in a usable form or even safely move in the home or community may not get the assistance they need.
 
“In terms of NDIS appeals and reviews, we want to ensure that consumers can have ease of access, the confidence to appeal decisions and have them dealt with by an expert, independent, disability specific body.
 
“We want parliamentarians to heed our considered recommendations.  If  implemented they will help ensure a fairer and more inclusive system of support to people with a disability including those who are blind or who have functional vision loss,” Ms Gersbeck said.
 
Vision 2020 Australia and its member organisations are strong supporters of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS makes economic sense and delivers improvements to the lives of people with a disability. The Vision 2020 Australia submission applies the same logic, is responsible, cost effective and the right approach to helping Australians who have blindness and functional vision loss.
 
“It is our hope in coming together and responding with one voice, that our submission will assist the Senate Committee to understand that the needs of people who are blind or who have functional vision loss can and must be met,” Ms Gersbeck concluded.
 

ENDS


What are the major points of the Vision 2020 Australia submission?
  • Eighteen eye health and blindness organisations from across the nation support the Vision 2020 Australia submission that calls on parliamentarians to ensure people do not fall through cracks in the system.
We are concerned some people with real needs will miss out on support – that’s why we want fairness and equity on the age issue, eligibility based on functional vision loss, and an accessible appeal process.
  • The NDIS makes economic sense and will pay for itself – our submission applies the same logic, is responsible, cost effective and the right approach to helping Australians who have blindness and functional vision loss.
  • We have made 4 recommendations to the Senate Community Affairs Committee –
  1. That people aged 65 years and older should have access to equitable disability services
  2. That someone already getting services or who is diagnosed with blindness will still be able to get support
  3. That a person’s functional need will not be determined by a medical diagnosis of legal blindness or clinical assessment alone
  4. That an independent middle path (such as a Disability Services Commission) is put in place to review decisions and resolve complaints in a way that is truly independent and accessible.
Does Vision 2020 Australia and it member organisations support the NDIS?
  • Yes. Vision 2020 Australia supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme and wants to ensure nobody falls through the cracks.
  • Eighteen organisations have contributed to and support the submission including: Association for the Blind WA; Australian College of Optometry; Blind Citizens Australia; Brien Holden Vision Institute; CanDo4Kids - Townsend House; Centre for Eye Research Australia; Guide Dogs NSW/ACT; Guide Dogs QLD; Guide Dogs SA.NT; Guide Dogs Victoria; Keratoconus Australia Inc; Macular Degeneration Foundation; Optometrists Association Australia; Queensland Vision Initiative Inc; Retina Australia; Royal Guide Dogs Tasmania; Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children; and Vision Australia.
Why is the age issue important to Vision 2020 Australia?
  • Senior Australians have a right to services and support to cope with the impact of blindness on their lives – but right now neither the NDIS nor the aged reforms cover them.
  • Anyone can face blindness and it affects senior Australians at higher rates than young people. The older you are, the more likely you are to be affected. More than 65% of people with blindness or functional vision loss are aged over 65 years old.
  • Without support, it’s more likely that seniors will find it difficult to maintain their safety and independence, stay engaged in the community, and continue the lifestyle of their choosing.
  • Not everyone necessarily seeks services but provision of disability services to senior Australians who need it does assist them to maintain safe, healthy, active and independent lives in a cost effective manner.
  • What is functional vision loss and why is it important to be included in the NDIS?
  • Functional vision loss means a serious limitation in one or more functions of the eye or vision system where a person has incomplete or blurred sight that is permanent or irreversible and which impacts on their ability to function.
  • Typically a person with functional vision loss is able to be assisted at less cost, with less intensity and less frequency – about 25% across the board – compared to someone who is blind.
  • Functional vision loss severely affects people’s day-to-day living, such as loss of driving licence or employment, getting information in a way they can use, or even safely move about the home or community.
  • Vision loss can be very confronting. That’s why having access to timely support, including early intervention, equips people to adjust emotionally, get the aids and equipment they need, and learn new skills to maintain their independence.

What is wrong with the proposed review and appeals process?
  • Ideally we would like to see a completely disability specific NDIS Disability Services Commission with expert understanding of disability and service issues that can undertake reviews, hear appeals and oversee services.
  • We think a middle path is the best way to do this but should the Launch Transition Agency introduce a separate review unit and the AAT create a NDIS specific team with specialist disability knowledge and a mediation process, this would go a long way to addressing the concerns of our stakeholders.
  • We want to ensure that consumers can have ease of access, confidence to appeal decisions and have them dealt with by an expert, independent, disability specific body.
  • People want to feel comfortable in challenging decisions and talking through to a solution, without delays or unnecessary costs such as lawyers.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Media Release

Click here to download the full submission (PDF)

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