Celebrating International Day of People with Disability
November 11th, 2022
One in 6 Australians currently live with disability*. Despite this representing 4.4 million Australians, the stories and lived experiences of people with disability are not always adequately heard or amplified.
International Day of People with Disability (IDwD) provides an opportunity to hear these valuable voices and reflect on our attitudes and behaviours, while shifting the conversation around disability.
As the peak body for volunteering in NSW, we are delighted to celebrate this United Nations observed day – held every year on 3 December – and highlight the incredible contributions and achievements of people living with disability within the volunteering sector and beyond.
Notably, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Alice Anderson, Accessibility Coordinator Volunteer at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. During our conversation, Alice discussed her experience as a volunteer leader, navigating her intersectional identities (as a person with disability and Queer woman), and her ongoing involvement with the largest Pride event in Oceania.
To discover how we’re supporting inclusivity and diversity all year round – from educational workshops, ongoing programs to free resources – visit our website.
How would you describe yourself?
My name is Alice, and my pronouns are she/they. I’m a Queer Bisexual person with disabilities. My disabilities are hidden.
How long have you been volunteering?
I have been volunteering since I was 13 and volunteering for Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for over 10 years.
Can you please describe your volunteering role?
I’m going to be volunteering for Sydney World Pride in 2023 in multiple roles. My main role will be the Accessibility Coordinator Volunteer at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. Mardi Gras Parade is one of the world’s largest night-time parades and it is one of the four NSW Hallmark events.
This year’s theme – Gather, Dream, Amplify – is set to come to life with bigger floats, lighting and firework shows, which can be seen from the free viewing areas on the street to our premium viewing spaces.
I will be leading a team of 60 volunteers and looking after multiple accessible viewing areas along the entire revamped route from Hyde Park to Moore Park.
Why do you volunteer?
I volunteer for a sense of belonging and connection with others in my community. Mardi Gras has also helped me – and continues to help me – with coming out as a Queer person. I also volunteer as a way of showing society that all love and gender expressions are equal. It’s a way for me to advocate for myself and allow my actions to speak louder than words.
Through volunteering, I have made multiple life-long friends, gained new skills, and developed my confidence. Volunteering has also led me to my first jobs.
What have your past volunteering experiences been like?
Volunteering for Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a huge privilege and has always been a very positive experience for me. I have seen first-hand how accessibility has improved over the years, and the ongoing efforts to foster inclusivity.
I can point to many ways in which the leadership team has supported and celebrated people myself and other people with disabilities. For example, Bel West (she/her), is the Volunteers and Operations Manager and adopts a tailored, strengths-focused approach to ensure each person is successful in their volunteering role. This is particularly important when considering she oversees a very diverse volunteer base, spanning the ages of 16 to volunteers in their 80s, members of the LGBTQI community, allies, and people living with disability.
I think she does a great job of making everyone’s experience as inclusive as possible by checking in regularly with volunteers to find out the best way of supporting them. From this, Bel allows for adjustments to be made, such as having a support worker attend the event. In my case, I can’t take in large amounts of text or information in one go. Bel allowed me additional time to go through the information and expressed that she is happy to go over the information over the phone with her.
Why do you think diversity in volunteering is important?
Having volunteers with disabilities is very important as it allows for better accessibility for everyone. Volunteers also have the right to bring their whole selfies to their volunteering roles and to be embraced.
Do you have any advice for anyone hesitating to become a volunteer?
My piece of advice for anyone hesitant is to give it a try. You can always stop if you don’t enjoy it. Being open minded to different experiences has led me to new skills, jobs, friends, and opportunities that I would never have without volunteering.
I would also say for people with disabilities; how much you disclose is up to you and you can just ask for the adjustments without the reasons behind it. If you are unsure about how to talk about your access needs, talk with your support networks and do some research to see how other people have navigated these situations.
*Australian Government Institute of Health and Welfare 2022, People with disability in Australia.
To learn more about International Day of People with Disability, please visit their website.