Put yourself in their shoes– improving rights for people with disability from multicultural communities

Put yourself in their shoes– improving rights for people with disability from multicultural communities
Posted on Mon 15 Feb 2021

Written by Tina Wild


I participated in a Human Rights conference hosted by the Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association (MDAA) recently, and wanted to share some insights.  The conference brought together organisations and individuals – from government, the NDIS, accommodation, technology, employment, transport, communication, and those with lived experience –  who advocate on behalf of people living with disability from multicultural backgrounds. 

The discussions were around how we can work together and collaborate to improve the rights, outcomes and lives of these vulnerable members of our community. Here are some key ideas:


1. Ask questions and listen to stories

Omer Incekara – Managing Director, Xavier Advertising/ Multicultural NSW Board Member commented that people receive around 8000 messages per day:  on the bus, in the car, in the sky, at home, on the phone, TV and computer.  The brain shuts down and filters out unimportant messages, therefore communication needs to be simple and relevant. Yet, communication can only be relevant if the communicator truly understands their audience’s needs. And to do that, Omer said, you need to listen to people’s stories and put yourself in their shoes.


2. Simplify language and communication

From Omer’s experience in advertising, if a communicator wants to cut through those 8000 daily messages they need to have a strategy, be creative and come up with ideas outside the box to be effective.  Bear in mind, for this multicultural audience there may be an additional language barrier that will require further simplification.


3. Get involved and be persistent

Matthew Hana, State Executive Member of the Liberal party, advised people living with a disability, or those advocating on their behalf, to get involved, be vocal and persistent in communicating their needs to government. Matthew commented that, similarly to the consumer being bombarded with communications, the government is also inundated with hundreds of emails on a daily basis. He urged people, however, not to be deterred by this prospect of competing for attention.  

Speaking up is so important because people living with disability and from multicultural communities are both under-represented in government, so decision making is largely in the hands of people who may not understand the barriers faced by a person living with disability from a multicultural background.  Seeking attention requires a lot of momentum and effort, but, Matthew advises, by continuing to bombard your local party you improve your odds of being heard.

Omer, originally from Turkey, shared his personal story about being the only “ethnic” person in his company 38 years ago. When he suggested using a multicultural photo in marketing they said no, and continued to say no for a long time. But, Omer says things will change eventually if we keep on challenging the status quo.

Omer believes that “diversity has a long way to go” yet, he says, in the end the corporation doesn’t have the power, the people and their voices do.  To illustrate his point he read out the letter from a man with cerebral palsy written to Nike to design inclusive footwear.

Matthew Walzer, now 25, was born two months premature, his lungs were not fully developed, and his brain did not receive enough oxygen. This led to brain injury that resulted in cerebral palsy, a condition that affect a person's movement and mobility. Fast-forward 16 years to 2012 Walzer was going to high school, and worried about being unable to tie his shoe laces due to his disability. His letter inspired Nike to act, in the same year Nike created a prototype for Waltzer to test, and three years later launched the FlyEase line. Nine years after Walkzer’s letter, Nike introduced its newest shoe that doesn’t require any hands at all: he Nike GO Fly Ease.  Read the full story here. (Neither myself or CPA are affiliated with Nike in any way).


Thanks to the MDAA for hosting this event and to the panel members for sharing their insights. 

Panel members:  

Ms Christine Regan - Regional Manager – NDIS Quality and Safeguards 

Mr Digby Hughes - Senior Policy Officer, Advocacy - Homelessness NSW 

Matthew Hana State Executive Member Liberal party 

Omer Incekara – Managing Director, Xavier Advertising/ Multicultural NSW Board Member 

Priscilla Sassine – Customer Experience Coordinator, Disability Employment Services, MTC Australia. 


On the evening of Monday, 3rd May Cerebral Palsy Alliance was joined by some very special guests to launch CPActive, a new community of individuals, families, advocates and allies dedicated to creating lasting change for people with cerebral palsy. The full launch video and transcript is now available.

May 12 marks International Nurses Day, making it the perfect date to celebrate and acknowledge the more than 40 nurses working across CPA, providing expertise and support to staff and clients.