Disability Etiquette: How to Support a Family Member With A Disability

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Each family is unique, and that’s what makes the bond so special with the loved ones we share our lives with. When a family member has a disability, most family units will rally around this loved one and provide support in a number of ways. If you are going through a transition with a family member who identifies as having a disability, here are some ways to support their physical and emotional needs. 

Engaging disability services in Australia

We are lucky to have access to a number of disability services in Australia, most of which are covered by government funding and provide flexibility to different family circumstances. 

It might not seem like a significant gesture, but by taking on the responsibility of managing these relationships with disability services, you are providing incredible support and taking that administration responsibility off their plate. 

This task also includes ensuring documentation is up to date, liaising with the service providers, and booking appointments so that your family member can continue to get the best assistance and continue their benefits. Remember, the services will be different based on the age and nature of their disability – so there may be one or many services available to them.

Champion accessibility

The face of disability in Australia is not what you might think, as disabilities can be seen or unseen. 

If your family member is challenged with mobility, then accessibility is a key issue that will need to be addressed for their lifestyle to continue as it has. 

They may also be fully mobile but require other more intricate home furnishings. Accessibility at home is more than just ramps; it is also optimising your homes to be sensitive to light, sound, and be open enough that it does not create a stressful environment. It might be even installing fire alarms and safety devices that are designed for individuals with hearing impairments. 

The best way to get this right is to speak with your family member, ask their specialists what they recommend, and refine as you go. A person without a disability cannot always spot the accessibility opportunities, so do your due diligence with research and exploring new options.

Open communication

Sometimes all we need from family is the freedom and space to have honest communication. Whether your loved one is at the start of their journey or has been living with a disability for years, you can support them by checking in on their emotional needs. 

Good mental health is something we should all be working towards by taking advantage of talk therapy, lifestyle changes, support services and even medication. 

Ensure that your family member knows they are not alone and work with them to articulate and resolve any mental health issues they might be experiencing.

Explore the opportunities available

Having a disability does not mean missing out, and in many cases, there are purpose-built programs designed to ensure that disabled individuals have access to equal opportunities. This might be a scholarship for education, an opportunity to exhibit art, enhanced employment pathways and even express entry into events and experiences. 

By keeping an eye out for these opportunities, you can be sharing more with your loved ones with disabilities and keeping them front and centre to the many things happening in your local or extended community. 

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By reading this article and researching ways to improve the life of your loved one with a disability – you are already on the road to giving them the best support possible. We each deserve an equal and dignified life, so work together as a family unit to ensure every opportunity and service are explored for their benefit.

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