Mat champions disability on radio

18 March 2021

Beyond the support that Mat receives from Life Without Barriers, he helps the community understand the challenges and stereotypes people with disability face, on his own radio show.

Image: Picture of Matt talking on air in radio station

As a radio host and passionate advocate for people with disability, 36-year-old Mat Earley from Taree in NSW is making waves in more ways than one. Using his voice and platform on local radio station 2BOB, Mat hosts his own radio show called Dis and Dat, which regularly discusses topics around living with a disability.

“I want disability to become as much of a mainstream topic as possible so we can be seen and have our voices heard to break down barriers that still exist,” says Mat, explaining the inspiration behind his show.

Having been born with spina bifida and using a wheelchair full time, Mat is all too familiar with the challenges and stereotypes that people with disability face. Since 2016 he has received support from Life Without Barriers to access the community as he chooses, like going to the gym, attending work and participating in a weekly five-kilometre fun run in his local area. With his positive support network and zest of life, Mat does not let his disability prevent him from living life the way he wants.

As well as being an active member of his community, Mat has a strong thirst for knowledge, having already studied a diploma of audio engineering, event management and public relations. But it wasn’t until an unexpected opportunity at a work experience placement, that Mat ever considered a career in radio.

“I was looking for work through a disability employment agency and focusing on public relations and marketing roles, but got some work experience with a local commercial radio station in Taree, called MaxFM,” Mat recalls. “I thought I would be doing more background work but I ended up on air with one of the DJs on my first day, and then my taste for radio took off from there.”

Since then, Mat has gone on to carve a meaningful career in radio at 2BOB, particularly with the launch of his Dis and Dat show in 2018. Funded by the Community Broadcasting foundation, Mat balances music with discussions around disability, partnering with local people who live with disability and service providers like Life Without Barriers, as a way to give the community a voice.

“I have people come in and either play some music on air or we have a chat about different things each week, like disability topics in the news or my own personal experiences living with a disability,” says Mat. "My main aim is advocating for disability and showing the broader community what it’s like living with a disability while showing that people with disabilities are people with their own stories.”

Fuelling Mat’s motivation, he has experienced doubt in his ability from people, purely based on his appearance. As he openly shares, this widespread misconception where people with disability are unfairly judged and their skills overlooked, is damaging in so many ways. “Even though all I need is my voice, there are still people who have doubted me when I first started,” he adds.

But as Mat finishes every episode of Dis and Dat with his inspiring catchphrase, he encourages listeners to “stand up, stand out, be heard and be you.” In other words, people with disability should be brave and bold and strive for what they want. At the same time, we as a community need to do better at ensuring people with disability have the same access to opportunities as everyone else.

“At the end of the day, we [people with disability] want just as much as anyone else and we should fight for what we want,” says Mat.

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