Independence and Choice for Younger People with a Disability

Jul 6, 2024 | Lifestyle

By: Helping Hands TV

It’s daunting to know that of the 30,000+ people across Australia requiring specialist disability accommodation, almost half are currently living in unsuitable housing.

When Ability SDA Directors, Angie and Paul Simmons, saw first-hand that young people with a disability were living in aged care facilities, they decided to do something.

Ability SDA was established in 2016 to provide a solution for families in need.

“Specialist Disability Accommodation is really life changing,” Angie says, and explains that, for people with a disability, living in a group home or nursing home leaves them with a lack of control over their own lives. “You don’t have any choice or control, or freedom over what you want to eat or who you want to hang out with. The only private space you have is your own bedroom.”

For tenant Bianca McDonnell, having the ability to go out independently has made a huge difference. This is accentuated by the fact that Bianca lived an independent life, until four years ago when a falling branch permanently injured her. “It’s so fantastic, being able to come and go as I please,” Bianca says. “It just makes life so much easier.”

Each Ability SDA apartment boasts two or three bedrooms, home automation, ceiling hoists, accessible bathrooms and kitchen areas, wider doorways with large living areas, no-step balconies and floor to ceiling glass doors. Every room and function is designed with accessibility in mind. And with a thriving community as well as support network in the building 24/7, tenants, as Angie says, are able to be “Just basically living life.”

Matthew Hennig is also an Ability SDA tenant. “If I didn’t have the setup that I have right now, I would need people in my face 24 hours a day,” he says. “But because of the work that Ability SDA have put into this apartment, it allows me to have more freedom.”

Living in an Ability SDA apartment has enabled Matthew to establish his own disability travel consultancy, as well as enjoy a social life and greater independence. “People might think this is something really simple, but it has majorly improved my lifestyle,” Matthew says, as he washes his hands without assistance. “I’m getting a bit of freedom back, basically.”

Ability SDA goes beyond care for the physical aspects of living with a disability. Ability SDA enables families to continue being together in a home environment – something that is integral to the planning of Ability SDA communities.

“Social interaction is key,” Angie says. “It’s one of the biggest drivers of people being happy and feeling safe and included in their community.”

For couples like Kevin and Julie Boylett, Ability SDA has enabled them to stay together, despite Kevin’s stroke and subsequent paralysis. “If I hadn’t come here, I’d have to go into the nursing home,” Kevin says. “This basically saved our marriage.”

“The family can come in, the kids can sit at the table with him and eat a meal with him and make a mess with him,” Julie says. “Ability Housing has been absolutely mind-blowing. For us, being our age and still being cuddly and together even though he’s in a wheelchair. I wish there were thousands more of these apartments.”

Matthew’s mother Christine Hennig says that seeing her son living in comfort and with a sense of independence has been really helpful for her. “It’s everything that a parent wants. We just want them to be able to stand alone and know that they’re okay. This gives you peace of mind, where you can go to bed at night and know that he’s in a beautiful home, he’s got the support and he’s running his own life.”

Ability SDA provides housing for 45 tenants in four thriving communities across Sydney and the Central Coast. Each tenant is SDA approved by the NDIA for Improved Liveability, Fully Accessible or High Physical Support living.

For tenants like Kevin, Ability SDA grants them a new lease on life. “I get to wake up every morning,” he says. “That’s a good thing. I used to take that for granted. I don’t anymore.”

It’s a lesson we can all learn from.

Ability SDA features on an episode of Helping Hands and can be streamed on catch-up TV on 9GEM, Channel 9 and 9NOW.