DRIVING THE MESSAGE: Wagga polio survivor Isabel Thompson is heading to Canberra to demand support for those living with the late effects of polio. She’ll be joining up to 40 others, all with a simple message “We’re still here!” Picture: Alastair Brook
Polio may prevent Isabel Thompson from doing the housework or shopping without assistance, but it’ll take more than her disability to stop her determination and her independence.
It’s a condition the Wagga resident has lived with almost all her life after she contracted it at the age of 10 while living on a small dairy farm.
On Wednesday, up to 40 survivors and their families, including Mrs Thompson and her husband, Clarrie, will converge on Canberra decked out in T-shirts and armed with a strong message – “We’re still here”.
That’s because the eagerly awaited National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), now known as DisabilityCare Australia, will omit most polio survivors due to the 65-year age cut off.
The survivors make up the largest single disability group in the country, with an estimated 400,000 mostly aged over 50, and the scheme could have assisted in providing much needed aids, equipment and support in the home.
“They forget that all of us old ones are still here and our polio is coming back at us”, Mrs Thompson said.
“We’re trying to get finance for Polio Australia to look after us and to help educate medical professionals, because they think it’s gone because of eradication.”
Sixty years after her diagnosis, Mrs Thompson is unable to walk any distance and is required to use a scooter.
“The government has to realise that financial assistance is required to assist those now suffering from the late effects of polio, as most of us are over 65 we won’t qualify.
“We are forgotten, they think we’re gone but we’re still here.”
Polio survivor and president of Polio Australia Dr John Tierney said the federal government told survivors they would be looked after when the scheme was rolled out.
“The NDIS is scheduled to start in 2018 so virtually all of us will be excluded”, Dr Tierney said.
“I am lobbying Canberra again because in such a wealthy country, people with a disability, who are over the age of 65 should not be treated as second-class citizens.”