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AFDO CEO Matthew Wright's speech at the NDIS New World Conference: Disability In The 21st Century

Matthew Wright, CEO, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
NDIS New World Conference – Brisbane
27 October 2015

Screenshot from the video of Matthew Wright speaking in Auslan at the NDIS New World Conference.

(In Auslan) Good Morning everyone. 

(Spoken) ‘A warm welcome’ in my language Auslan. It’s lovely to see you all for day 2 of the New World Conference. I’m now going to hand the Auslan over to the interpreters so there’s no confusion.

(Thanks interpreter)

(Spoken) I’m Matthew Wright, CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations and spokesperson for Disability Australia, a consortium of 12 National peak organisations for people with disability.

I am Deaf and a proud part of Australia’s signing Deaf Community.

Before getting started, I would like to first acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respect to their elders both past and present.

On arriving here, people with disability have told me how optimistic and excited they were after the first day at the conference.

And it's fitting that last week was October 21st 2015, a key date in the iconic 80’s film 'Back to the Future', where Marty McFly uses a time machine to travel from the 80’s to now. 

Writers predicted virtual reality glasses, flying cars and self-drying jackets, amongst other things.

What’s not there of course, is people with disability, because in the 80's probably the assumption was we would still be in institutions or in some high tech segregated system that floated off the planet.

Ironically key actor Michael J Fox is now one of the most high profile people with disability. That’s something that we all grapple with isn’t it, you can’t tell who will experience a disability and who won't?

That’s why the NDIS is so important; it says it doesn’t matter when you experience disability in Australia, you will get support.

I would argue that our future today with the NDIS is more exciting and inclusive than the film could have predicted. 

As I stand here today I am wearing state of the art hearing aids, that amplify all sound via remote control. What looks like a piece of spy equipment is my Roger Pen that I can put down at meetings to hear everyone in the room. And a vibrating watch that alerts me to calls and messages 100% of the time.

I couldn’t function without these devices. They make it possible for me to work, and be part of the world.

In my home, my wife Tammy, who is profoundly Deaf and has never spoken a word, is a qualified teacher of the Deaf. This was only made possible by the National Relay Service, where you can type messages to an online operator who will call and speak on your behalf.

These technological advancements in accessibility have been happening incrementally, in some cases almost by accident for people with disability.

However why wouldn’t companies be moving into this space now when at least a billion dollars of the $22 billion on the NDIS will be spent on life-changing equipment for us?

For the first time the NDIS is helping people with disability become customers of technology on a mass scale, not an afterthought.

And for the first time technology is also eliminating the ways that disability impedes a person’s life. Many internet-based jobs mean that if you can perform the role, you won’t be screened out at interview by past prejudice and outdated assumptions.

The attendance at this conference by IT companies and pioneers is testament to a changing landscape.

To take hold of this exciting future we must learn from what did not work in the past - separating people with disability from the community. The hurtful and wrong assumption that we were of no value and had nothing to offer.

Now at last with an NDIS we can be leading edge, not the last to know, connected and online not left out - and a co-designer of technology to make it accessible for everyone.

It’s a bright new future, and we people with disability can't wait to get started. Thank you.


When this video is available on YouTube we will embed it here and tell you. Until then, if you would like to watch the video (includes transcript, captions, and Auslan), the best way to do it is to follow the links from this page on the NDIS website. Go to Day 2, then select Plenary Session - Morning - 9:30am. The conference videos work best on a desktop or laptop computer.