31 March 2017

Since Life Without Barriers’ inception almost 25 years ago, we have been firm believers in the importance of empowering the people we support. And the first step of empowering people is to listen to what they have to say.

In the spirit of ‘listening helps us better understand’, we recently decided to invite peer-researchers who have lived experience with disability to help lead our discussions about creating a new suite of services, channels and customer experience options that respond to the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the flexibility that it offers.

To this end, Life Without Barriers partnered with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) and The Difference Incubator (TDI) to embark on an inclusive co-designing journey to discover and build opportunities for such innovative service models. This journey saw us launch our research in the Playford (SA), Illawarra Shoalhaven (NSW) and Epping (VIC) areas, where we met with a range of stakeholders including people with disability; family and carers; and staff members and professionals in the field.

The aim of this research is to understand what the helpful aspects are in the current disability services we provide; and what we could do better; and what gets in the way of providing higher quality services.

We were fortunate to have Nick Schumi among our research team as a peer researcher in NSW. Joining us from Adelaide, Nick brought with him a wealth of experience and a noteworthy profile as a recognised leader from the 'Top 100 Leaders Project’ for his work leading youth committees for people with disability in South Australia.

It was immediately evident that having a person with lived experience with disability as an integral part of the conversations was not only reassuring for the participants but also aided in building strong relationships and opening the door for more meaningful contributions to emerge. The participants felt empowered.

“My passion is consultation and having the voice of people with disability being heard,” says Nick. “My lived experience is with a physical disability, even though not everyone has this – there is an automatic bond that happens when you’ve shared a similar experience.”

Lauren Weinstein (TACSI) was also part of these research conversations with people and has found the process of conducting co-design research alongside both peer researchers and leading organisations like Life Without Barriers to be rewarding and insightful. “[Life Without Barriers] is really setting a new standard for how inclusive codesign research can and should be when designing innovations within service deliver,” says Lauren.

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