Celebrating International Day of Persons with a Disability
Today is International Day of Persons with a Disability. A day to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.
In August, Bill Hodges from GuildSuper, won an Employee Recognition Award for his tireless work advocating for GuildSuper members with a disability. Here's a little of what Bill has to say today.
What does International Day for People with a Disability mean to you?
Well most importantly, it means recognition. There has not been much of that in Victoria in recent times. Many disabled people have had a terrible time during the pandemic. Many have been cast aside and feel lost.
Can you tell us why you're so driven to advocate for our members?
One day life is going on nicely and the next you wake up in a hospital bed, with wires and tubes everywhere. And you are told some truly frightening things about your future, short term and long term. Some of them turned out to be true but many did not eventuate. I’ve had a broken back and a broken neck, missing a permanent wheelchair by a centimetre or 2. You never forget that. You always remember what could have been, what was and the hard work and luck that made the difference between the two.
I’ve had tremendous support from family and friends. Some are not so fortunate. It guides my actions every day.
What does it mean to you to be able to serve this community?
I do some volunteer work for Road Trauma Support Services Victoria. Telling my story to offenders, many sent to these sessions by the courts. We are not a preaching group and, as a former road user, I was far from perfect. It’s about putting something back. You meet some great people. And it’s when you hear of behaviour change that makes it all worthwhile. Many people in this group have lost children on the roads. Sometimes you feel ashamed that you are alive, and their child is not. You recognised how lucky you are.
Why is it important for workplaces, schools and communities to recognise International Day of People with Disability?
The first thing to say is that Guild has been very welcoming, understanding and has treated me as anyone would expect. Sometimes, at previous places, that has not been the case. So, I am grateful to be here. When I was a kid, disability was rarely spoken of. No disabled seats at the footy, no disabled entrances, limited access. These things have changed for the better. It’s about maintaining awareness and explaining, in an age appropriate way, to kids what has happened and why. Once, many people with a disability were hidden away. I’m glad of the small part I have played in changing that.