Disabled motorcyclists are demanding more wheelchair-accessible facilities in order to make “life outside the home” easier

An Albany man who survived a shocking motorcycle accident in Africa says Western Australia urgently needs to remove the many barriers and barriers to access and funding for people with disabilities.

Bob Rees became paraplegic two years ago when he and his wife were hit head-on by a car on their motorcycle in Malawi.

Chris Rees lost his life and Bob sustained spinal injuries that prevented him from using a wheelchair.

As a disabled person in old age, he was shocked by the lack of uniform standards for disabled toilets, parking and accessibility.

While trying to recover from his injuries, the 73-year-old was told by staff at Fiona Stanley Hospital that he was not eligible for National Disability Insurance because he was over 65 years old.

“When I heard that, I was pretty stunned,” said Mr. Rees.

“So the others in the hospital all got their NDIS and I didn’t get any.

“What I had to do with Fiona Stanley’s help, especially with our occupational therapist, was figure out where I could get the money myself.

“You have to do it yourself. And unfortunately, because of this COVID thing, there is less money in circulation now than it was two years ago. So that makes it very difficult.”

Mr. Rees at home with his photos and motorcycles.(ABC Great Southern: Mark Bennett)

Speaking to ABC on International Disability Day last Friday, Mr Rees said people who are disabled over the age of 65 may need more government help to rebuild their lives.

“How many people know the NDIS [and how] Don’t you get it when you’re 65? You know, this is Australia’s worst-kept secret; You know this is awful. “

The NDIS states on its website that “the requirement to be under 65 to become an NDIS participant recognizes that the NDIS is part of a broader support system in Australia, with the intent that people over 65 have access should get to the elderly care system “. . “

The need to change his house, car, and motorcycle for someone who can no longer use their legs cost him $ 100,000.

“I’m lucky enough to be able to afford it by diving into my pension insurance. Obviously there are a lot of people who can’t and I think there should be money for it.”

Brendon Flower, who converts vehicles for the disabled at BF Customs near Mount Barker, says he lost a lot of orders because the NDIS qualification process takes so long that people despair and cancel.

“Unfortunately, it can sometimes take a long time,” he said.

“And I actually lost a few jobs because people just gave up. It took six, nine, even twelve months and they didn’t hear back.

“I’m not sure why, but it would be great if that could change for her. Because, you know, giving people their independence and being able to go for a ride. It’s just great. It’s great to give that back to people. “

Bob Rees sits playing guitar across from Donna Simpson, who is also holding a guitar.
Mr. Rees and Donna Simpson of The Waifs plan to record an album of songs he has written since he became disabled two years ago.(ABC Great Southern: Mark Bennett )

Since becoming paraplegic, Mr. Rees has been an advocate for people with severe mobility impairments.

“I’m a positive person anyway, so I’ve decided that I have to make this second life worthwhile and make things worthwhile for myself and others.” he said.

“It made me realize how difficult it is for others. And not just for paraplegics or wheelchair users.

“It’s huge, the obstacles that you have to overcome in your daily life.

“So I’ve tried, especially in the last 18 months, to speak to decision-makers in Parliament and the Council to make life outside the home easier for them.”

Mr. Rees has reached out to Albany City Council on a number of occasions to address issues such as parking and the provision of adequate space for disabled drivers to park and assemble wheelchairs. He said the Council was “very good” on this, but there were other things that could be done.

“There are a lot of things, for example simple things like door closers in disabled toilets, they are so strong, most of them that you can’t hold the door in a wheelchair and stay open. it will pop back on you.

“I’ve only been on the road for two years, like most of the population. I went to the West Australian Government for the Department of Disabilities and pointed things out to them. And I just feel like I’m getting nowhere.

“I think there should be an accessibility standard across Australia, so it has to be an overall organization that actually takes care of these things.

“I think there are too many small advisory bodies. You’d think the Disability Department overlooked everything, but I don’t think they are.”

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