By Colin MacGillivray
WALLAN man Adam Georgelin hopes a new online directory and associated forum will unite people with disabilities across Mitchell Shire and beyond.
Mr Georgelin, who was born with a spinal cord defect and spends most of his time in a wheelchair, set up the N’able’d directory to promote businesses that provide disability access.
“I’ve got a number of local businesses that have signed up for the local directory on it where they can advertise as disability-accessible,” he said.
“The business can advertise their name and location and a phone number, and I’ve got a section for people looking to advertise more in depth where they can advertise their website and that sort of thing.
“I’m also looking at promoting them in other ways, whether that’s going to the business for services and then I can review them and let people know that they’re definitely accessible.
“In the past I’ve had businesses tell me they’re wheelchair accessible and they’re just not. I had one business tell me they were wheelchair accessible because they just had one step to get in, but if you’re in a wheelchair, one step can make it completely inaccessible.”
Mr Georgelin won Mitchell Shire Council’s Access and Inclusion Champion during Australia Day celebrations in January.
The long-time disability advocate won the award after pushing his wheelchair along the entire length of the Great Victorian Rail Trail to raise money for Disability Sports and Recreation and the Robert Rose Foundation.
Mr Georgelin said he was inspired to set up a directory, as well as an online forum to connect people with disabilities, after becoming frustrated at a lack of mainstream awareness surrounding the everyday issues faced by many people living with disabilities.
“When I was young, organisations like Yooralla and others were advertised and promoted … but for quite a long time there has been nothing for people with disabilities to connect through to meet other people like themselves,” he said.
“That’s the backbone of what this website is all about.
“I’ve got a Facebook page linked to it and I’m hoping to build an online community so that people not only in the Mitchell Shire but in the community as a whole can live together and share their experiences with businesses, with organisations, with restaurants and even hospitals.”
Mr Georgelin said he hoped to bring awareness and conversations about disability into the public consciousness.
“Disability has always been a taboo subject I feel. People don’t understand it so they’re frightened of it. Because they don’t understand it they don’t know the questions to ask,” he said.
“A lot of people with disabilities are happy to talk about their disability, but I know a lot of people who don’t have disabilities don’t know how to approach it.
“What I’m trying to do with this website and the Facebook page is make it not such a hidden-away topic.
“It’s a safe place where people can talk about their disability and not feel like they’re getting judged, or people who don’t have a disability can actually come on and learn more about it from the other side.”
Mr Georgelin said he wanted to continue the momentum of the recent Paralympics, after the Federal Government agreed to pay the same bonuses to Australian Paralympic medallists as those of their Olympic counterparts.
“In the community lately we’ve had the Black Lives Matter movement and the [Me Too] movement dealing with sexual harassment, but there’s never really been a movement for people with a disability. It’s always been a topic people don’t want to talk about,” he said.
“In Australia alone there are 4.4 million people who are recognised as having a disability. With 26 million people in Australia, that’s nearly one fifth of the population, but the government keeps saying it’s not a high agenda topic. It needs to be.
“Every four years when the Paralympics come on, it becomes a hot topic, and then it disappears and in six months’ time nobody is talking about it again.
“I really do hope that the momentum continues on because I feel people with a disability have been left behind.”
People can view Mr Georgelin’s directory online at nabled.com.au, and the Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/1493132704082854.