LOCAL families with disability will have their voices heard in a ground- breaking media and education campaign to communicate the important "accept difference” message.
Early Connections, an alliance of five Early Intervention Services from Taree to Coffs Harbour, has been funded to roll out an awareness and social change campaign encouraging greater inclusion of families with disability.
This campaign aims to break down the stigma people with disability regularly experience in public and foster a greater feeling of acceptance of difference in the community.
Jennie Fenton is a parent, carer and founder of social inclusion project Bello Belonging.
Her nine-year-old daughter, Mala, has cerebral palsy.
"One in five Australians have disability and global research is clear that inclusion fosters social well-being as well as economic advantages,” Jennie said.
"It is the way society is organised that causes disability rather than the person's impairment or difference.
"Inclusion and belonging is a basic human right.
"We have a choice how we react and view families with disability.
"Small changes to our behaviours can break down barriers for these families and we want all families to be socialised, not marginalised.”
The Accept Difference campaign highlights the message "disability is not always visible, but your response is always visible”.
"We've come a long way with attitudes to physical and visible disabilities,” Jennie said.
"What often happens, and it's painful to watch, is when people talk down to Mala like she is a six-month-old.
"Mostly people are well meaning but they can be unintentionally disrespectful.
"There is often a presumption there's an intellectual disability, and if there is an intellectual disability, it is still disrespectful to speak down to someone.
"It is wonderful when someone takes the time and patience to talk directly to my daughter.
"When people take the risk, it's great to see her respond. She's got as much right to meaningful communication as anyone.”
An intense three-month advertising campaign
has begun on television, in print and outdoor media, as well as business and community education and online activity around #Accept Difference, sharing real-life case studies and experiences.