Sunday, 3 December 2017

Access All Areas: Disability Pride Parade

Today is the International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD).

The white placard has words painted in purple paint. One cansee the brush strokes. "Access-A'laide" is in mixed case across the top and NOW is in large capitals in the middle.
A white placard with purple writing
"Access-A'laide NOW!"
It is a United Nations sanctioned day celebrated internationally which "aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with disability."

I celebrated by participating in my first ever public rally! A Disability Pride Parade through the streets of Adelaide, South Australia.

It was hosted by the office of Kelly Vincent MLC* who represents the Dignity party in the South Australian Parliament.  She is a remarkable woman, the youngest woman ever elected to an Australian parliament and the first Australian to be elected on the platform of disability rights back in 2010.

It is so important to have the voices of so-called 'minority groups' in the parliament. In Australia, 1 in 5 people will be affected by disability during their lifetime. 18–20% is a significant figure. People say that Kelly has done more for people with disabilities in the last few years than other politicians have done in their entire time in parliament.

Kelly Vincent is in the centre sitting in a wheelchair surrounded by a group of approximately 15 people. The people either side of her are kneeling down and everyone else is standing in a semicircle around them. They are wearing purple fedora hats with white hatbands and leaning forward while giving hand gestures: either a thumbs up or a V for victory. Purple balloons are in the air. On the right hand side a guide or companion dog is wearing a purple glitter dog-coat. Everyone is looking to the right of the photograph where a photographer is taking a group portrait. In the background are plane trees and city buildings. A skyscraper on the left and a colonial sandstone treasury building on the right.
Hon Kelly Vincent MLC in Victoria Square
surrounded by a group of supporters

This was the fourth year of celebrating with a Disability Pride Parade in Adelaide.  In previous years, friends had invited me but I was too sick to manage it.  This year, I was feeling stronger and more fired up, especially with the petitioning for equitable access to transport.  

When I heard that the threat of rain was keeping people away, I made the extra effort to attend to support Kelly's campaign as her office is supporting mine. It was also an opportunity to meet people in person with whom I had only ever had phone or online conversations. It is alway good to put a face to a name.

Jodie is on the left sitting in a green wheelchair. Ellen is kneeling next to her. They are both in front of a giant green christmas tree which is bordered by a red picket fence. There are decorated boxes ('presents') under the tree behind the fence.  Jodie is wearing a white hat with a purple bandana hat band and purple cardigan, black shirt and purple and black floral skirt and sandals.  Ellen is wearing a purple hat with a white hat band, a purple paisley scarf, a purple T shirt with a large white circle on the front of it. Inside the white circle is the purple word 'Dignity'. Ellen is wearing a medium length straight floral skirt and purple stockings.
Ellen Fraser-Barbour and I have mutual friends
and have been chatting online for a long time.
This was our first chance to meet in person.
Here we are in front of the giant Christmas tree
in Victoria Square, Adelaide.
The purple cardigan is my own crochet work.

Participants met at the steps to Parliament House, a common venue for political actions of all kinds in South Australia. There were balloons, purple hats and banners being distributed.  A range of ready-made placards were laid out on the Parliament House steps and I looked for those that related to my transport campaign. 

I chose one that said "Access-A'laide NOW!" but one that made me laugh was, "The lady is a tramp, the lady needs a ramp!"

The event began with a 'Welcome to Country' by Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O'Brien, a Senior Aboriginal Man.  Did you know that there is no word for "disability" in the Aboriginal language? That's because, in Aboriginal culture, individual differences are accepted and valued.

There were five guest speakers at the event presented by MC Joanne Blesing who is also a Dignity Party Candidate for the 2018 State election in South Australia.  The speakers were:

  • Quentin Kenihan, celebrity disability advocate is just one of many strings to his bow. You may have seen him in Mad Max Fury Road.
  • Aimee Crathern, an award-winning singer & performer and member of pop group Sisters of Invention
  • Ellen Fraser-Barbour, a PhD candidate, star of You Can't Ask That on ABC TV. 
  • Katharine Annear, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network Australia/New Zealand, holds a Masters Degree in Disability, and is a Community Development Officer in local government. 
  • Hon Kelly Vincent MLC, Leader of the Dignity Party.  
All of these speakers live with disability and they all have successful, productive lives. 

Kelly Vincent is in a purple outfit, sitting in her wheelchair making a speech with the microphone in her hands. To her left is the MC Joanne Blesing in a motorised wheelchair with her assistant who is wearing a red skirt and black top. Behind Kelly is a senior Aboriginal Man wearing a pelt over a pink shirt and jeans. He has a hat with black and red feathers. He is holding a message stick. Around these people are a photographer, and a pedestrian walking by behind them with a white top with fine black stripes and jeans.
Hon Kelly Vincent MLC giving her speech on North Terrace, Adelaide
to an audience in front of the Parliament House steps.
Behind her is Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O'Brien who conducted the
"Welcome to Country" ceremony.

The speeches on North Terrace were not supposed to block the footpath but the gathering crowd meant that passers-by chose to walk around  the event rather than through. I felt bemused by the fact that, for once, it was the able-bodied people forced to travel on the roadway instead of the people with disabilities.  

So often wheelchair users need to wheel on the road because of obstructions on footpaths.  People with vision impairments can also find footpaths treacherous if their surfaces are uneven or if there are overhanging plants and trees or other obstacles. Often people with disabilities are forced along the roadway instead of the designated footpath which isn't ideal or safe or fair.
Jodie is in the foreground with the parade behind her. The placard is balancing on her feed and against her knees. She is wearing a black shirt. The purple cardigan has been shrugged off  and has settled around her waist. Behind are balloons and people walking and with gophers and chairs.
View down King William Street, Adelaide,
looking back at the parade.


After the speeches, I joined the other parade participants as we made our way, under police escort, from North Terrace, along King William Street to Victoria Square / Tarndanyangga, in the centre of the CBD for a celebratory event of performers, interviews and more speeches on a central stage together with a disability expo.  

It was the first disability expo I had ever attended as well. Again, friends had tried to coax me to previous disability expos, where service providers and equipment suppliers are available all in the one location at the same time.  These expos were always held at times and places inconvenient to me.  (I actually cancelled some appointments in order to attend this one!)

As well as service providers, there were representatives from government as well, including officers from the Minister for Disabilities Katrine Hildyard MP and the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion. 

It was very interesting to talk with various organisations and policy makers and experience their attitudes to people with disabilities for myself.  

Friends and I were gobsmacked that, at a disability expo of all places, one of the representatives of a service provider chose to direct her gaze and answers to my able-bodied companion even though I was the one asking the questions (from my wheelchair)!  How rude.  I will definitely not be recommending that service provider. That behaviour shows a lack of respect and proper training.  One expects better at a disability expo for goodness sake!

Three women wearing purple lined up in front of a red picket fence for a 'selfie' portrait. They are smiling.
One of my first attempts at a selfie
with Helen and Ellen.

Helen and I were startled when visiting an expo stall.
I was asking the questions but the stallholder kept giving her answers to Helen!?!
This is another example of disability discrimination:
not giving the person in the wheelchair the respect they deserve,
speaking over them and about them right in front of them, instead of directly to them;
or in this case, plain avoidance and ignorance. How rude!

We were very privileged to be in the presence of Gill Hicks MBE who was being interviewed on stage about all sorts of topics while we enjoyed our lunch.  She is another remarkable woman who is best known for surviving the London bombings in 2005. Her anecdotes and stories were both entertaining and profoundly moving. She is an author, peace activist, public speaker and mother.

One of the most valuable parts of the day was getting to network with other people. I received some very useful advice about planning for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and got to compare notes about wheelchair and other technology.

I managed to stick it out until 2 p.m. I was so exhausted. It was all I could do to get on the tram and train home.  At the city train platform, one of my local petition supporters was waiting so I had company and conversation all the way home which made the trip go quickly.

There was a funny incident on the train home.  I couple of young men boarded with their bicycles.  One of them saw my glittery purple hat that someone had left on my head at the parade. He says, "I like your hat, Love" and my immediate reaction was "Thank you, Darling!"  Well!  That stopped him in his tracks. He turned around and responded with sincerity and ceremony, "You are a very kind lady," as he performed a very formal, extravagant deep bow in my direction!  It was like something you might see in a Shakespearean performance.  

I love getting out and about. I am so lucky to have access to a wheelchair and public transport; to live in a city that is relatively accessible. Freedom and independence.

Happy International Day of People with Disabilities!

Were there any celebrations or special events where you live?

*Member of the Legislative Council (the 'upper house' of the Parliament of South Australia).

Links and Related Posts

ABC iView, You Can't Ask That, TV series, Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

Annear, Katharine, (Linked In Profile):

Blesing, Joanne, Architectural Designer, Blesing Design:

Craithern, Aimee, blog page:

Dignity Party, Disability Pride Parade video [vimeo]:

Fraser-Barbour, Ellen, (Linked In profile):
Ellen also appeared on television in You Can't Ask That Series 2 Episode: Facial Difference, Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

Hicks, Gill, MBE:

Hildyard, Katrine, MP, SA Minister for Disabilities:

International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD):

Kenihan, Quentin:

Lupey Loops, blog post, "Access All Areas: Petition Power (Part 1)", 24 September 2017:

Lupey Loops, blog post, "Better Than a Bought One",  26 March 2015:

Sisters of Invention, documentary, Documentary Australia Foundation:

Vincent, Kelly, MLC:


  1. What a fabulous event and so pleased you were well enough to attend! Fantastic!

    1. It was a different experience. I learned new things and didn't realise how isolated I had been for so long. That's partly because I have been so unwell but also because the support provider hasn't been totally appropriate for my needs but it is all I can get for now. The new system, the NDIS, is supposed to be changing that.

  2. Firstly - you rock the purple.

    Secondly - I love your sign.

    But I have to say "The lady is a tramp, the lady needs a ramp" is my favorite.

    1. I love purple and need to wear more of it! In fact, I am wearing a plum purple right now as I type!

  3. It sounds like a well organised parade, a good way to get your point across. I did chuckle at the Lady is a Tramp sign, that's a good way to get people's attention, something they won't forget.

    1. I agree with you. It reminds me of Stella Young's contempt for those people who think that disability can be overcome with a positive attitude alone: "No amount of positive thinking is going to turn that flight of stairs into a ramp!"
      Another slogan of the day was, "We're loud, we're proud, we're 18 percent of the crowd" which makes reference to the fact that 1 in 5 people is affected by disability in some way at some stage in their lifetime.
      "Disability is everybody's business"
      Although now, all I can think of is that song "The Lady is a Tramp" ;-)
      Keep smiling (and singing)!

  4. I am days late in reading this Jodie, I am so glad you were able to attend this wonderful event. I hope that awareness was raised and that you were able to learn information to help you with your cause. It is so wonderful to meet friends and people fighting for their health rights just like you. By the way you look wonderful.

    1. Hi Meredith!

      Don't worry about being late. I have been running behind too - on blogging etc. - for weeks since starting the petition and soon it will be Christmas and there is so much to do. It's nice that you made it here eventually and got to see the photos.

      If you would like to see some video, Kelly Vincent's office has published two versions - one is backed with music and the other is audio described for vision-impaired viewers. I have added the links to the list above, but will also give them to you here as well to copy and paste into your browser:

      audio described:
      music soundtrack:

      (I don't know how to put a link in a comment field or whether it is even possible to add a live link here.)

      Thank you for your compliments, I was having a good day, healthwise. It is so wonderful when 'the planets align' and 'the Gods are smiling' to put it all together so everything 'works'. Lucky!

      I also need to wear more purple! It certainly was the right colour choice for that cardigan. I hope your December is treating you kindly and your Christmas preparations runs smoothly.