At what point does an illness become a disability? For me it is pretty simple – when your body can not do, or be, something “normal”.
To look at it, my body is perfectly formed. Not only can I “do” everything, but given my hypermobility, I can “do” everything better than most people. My body can not “be” normal however – I can technically do the splits, but not without dislocating a hip. Thus, it can not “be” normal.
Someone, like my aunt, who has a leg shorter than another due to polio, has a disability as her body cannot walk (“do” something) normally.
Sounds simple right? And yet it is so very very complicated.
Someone with Dysautonomia also has a body that can not “do” something normal – Dysautonomia is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, and affects things such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestive tract etc. Dysautonomia can be mild to moderate (such as my own case – I can not handle heat very well, and get quite feint and dizzy regularly to the point of not being able to stand very long etc). My own dysautonomia is not a disability – alone, it would not stop me from living a “normal” life.
For someone like Michelle however, who has a more severe case, it IS a disability. It physically stops her from living a normal life. There are things she may want to do with her life that she physically can not do due to her illness/disability.
Jen Morris decided to put forth her views on this subject in an article posted on Ramp Up. She seems to be complaining that many “illnesses” that are really not that different from disabilities, will not be included when Disability Care Australia (DCA) rolls out over the next six years.
I think she is wrong. I also think a lot of people claim to have a disability when they do not (not necessarily her, but certainly others).
A Fair Go For Everyone
Now before I get into it, I want to be clear – I think we need to stop using diagnosis as a qualifier. Period. I don’t care much for labels.
If you need a wheelchair, then you need a wheelchair. If you can’t work then you can’t work. If you need someone to help you have a shower, then you need someone to help you have a shower. And the price we pay for living in a war free, and largely crime free, society, is paying taxes that go to helping those less fortunate and in need.
But We Do Not Live In A World Without Labels 😦
Sad, but true.
In her article, Jen focuses on current definitions of disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act explicitly includes infectious diseases, such as HIV, within the definition of disability. Yet Medicare classifies it as a ‘chronic disease’ for the purposes of Chronic Disease Management Plans. It is unclear where DisabilityCare stands.
However, if you read the requirements in the National Disability Scheme Insurance Act 2013:
(1) A person meets the disability requirements if:
(a) the person has a disability that is attributable to one or more intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairments or to one or more impairments attributable to a psychiatric condition; and
(b) the impairment or impairments are, or are likely to be, permanent; and
(c) the impairment or impairments result in substantially reduced functional capacity to undertake, or psychosocial functioning in undertaking, one or more of the following activities:
(ii) social interaction;
(vi) self‑management; and
(d) the impairment or impairments affect the person’s capacity for social and economic participation; and
(e) the person is likely to require support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme for the person’s lifetime.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an impairment or impairments that vary in intensity may be permanent, and the person is likely to require support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme for the person’s lifetime, despite the variation.
DisabilityCare Australia is not going to care whether or not you have HIV, nor will it care how another government department classifies what you have. If your particular case meets the above requirements, then you are in. Call it whatever the fuck you want.
In this way, DCA is fantastic – it finally sees the end of discrimination according to labels as opposed to need.
It may seem that given my own circumstances, and the fact that I will undoubtedly qualify, while others with “illnesses” will not, allow me to not know or understand or give a shit about the circumstances of those with “medical conditions”. So I would like to state that I have areas in my own life where I will NOT qualify. Seriously – half of my psychologists appointments are due to Aspergers (will qualify) and half are due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (will not qualify). My sleep apnea will NOT qualify – it is still going to take me years to save up and buy my own $2000+ CPAP machine. This house is rife with allergies, asthma and skin conditions – none of which are disabilities and all of which cost a fortune at the chemist.
And I am ok with chronic medical conditions not qualifying. They are not, after all, disabilities.
If you have a flat-out disability, or even a medical condition that is disabling, you will be able to access DisabilityCare.
If you have a medical condition that does not impose an impairment on your life, then you will not. And that sucks for you, as it does for me. But you do not have a disability even under liberal definitions.
Whether or not the federal government takes over the state health systems (responsible now and in the future for medical conditions) is a matter of politics. For now however, it seems they will not, and so DisabilityCare is for people with a disability. Are there other groups that are missing out? Hell yes! The aged care system is pathetic. Employment Services are a contradiction in terms. Don’t get me started on education, department of children’s services, single parents, refugees etc. And yes – state health care is at best, next to non-existent, and at worst, abusive. I have been waiting six months now for a neurologists appointment to find out if I have Multiple Sclerosis. Not fun.
Healthcare however, is a whole other ball game. Pissed off that healthcare is under-funded? Lobby your state government. (Let me know when, and I will come along. Healthcare is drastically under-funded across the country.)
However make no mistake – this is a DISABILITY scheme – not a free-for-all-for-everyone-that-needs-a-hand-scheme.