2016 National Disability Award finalists

The below individuals, organisations, services and initiatives have been selected as the 2016 finalists for the 10th National Disability Awards.

Employer of the year Award

G-Force Contracting, WA

G-Force Contracting believes “there is a perfect job for every single person with disability; we just may not have found it yet”. G-Force Contracting wants to make sure the rights of people with disability are acknowledged, supporting them to live a fulfilled and independent life through meaningful employment. In operation for 16 years, G-Force Contracting is a not-for-profit organisation providing people with various disabilities with employment opportunities, at full award rates of pay, to re-enter the workforce. Its clear vision and supportive environment has resulted in approximately 35–40 people with disability placed into paid employment over the last three years.

Griffith University, QLD

Griffith University believes in the potential of all people to access higher education and recognises the unique challenges faced by people with disability. As a result, Griffith University programs focus on alleviating barriers to employment and personalising adjustments and supports.

Staff have access to a range of equity, health and wellbeing initiatives that aim to create a satisfying, inclusive, healthy and safe workplace.

This work is underpinned by the University’s commitment to workforce diversity and fostering an inclusive workplace culture. Griffith University’s approach is strengthened by its Disability Action Plan, Equity and Diversity Plan, and the Equal Opportunity Policy driving inclusion and change.

Lifestart Co-operative Ltd, NSW

Lifestart shows its ability to go above and beyond ‘Business as Usual’ as an employer through its commitment to diversity and inclusion across the organisation. Lifestart works to empower its staff with disability through positive and supportive adjustments to work arrangements. An example of this is the support provided to a staff member with Multiple Sclerosis whose needs constantly change. Lifestart promotes staff well-being to a high standard within the work environment. This support resulted in the staff member nominating Lifestart Co-operative for this award.

Excellence in Community Partnerships Award

Taste Creative and Bus Stop Films, NSW

Taste Creative and Bus Stop Films hope to make the film industry more open, diverse and inclusive by helping people, who are usually sidelined and excluded, to be included. For six years, Taste Creative and Bus Stop Films have delivered workshops to provide world-class film education for students with disability.

Taste Creative and Bus Stop Films collaborated to break down barriers of entry to the film industry, while creating content that helps challenge prejudice and shift mindsets surrounding people with disability. The education opportunities have supported 77 successful work experience placements for people with intellectual disability, on creative projects and campaigns, behind and in front of the camera.

Coolbinia Bombers Junior Football Club and the Fremantle Dockers Foundation, WA

The Starkick program is an Australian-first program that allows children with disability to play Australian Football League as part of a local community club. Starkick is the brain-child of the Coolbinia Bombers Junior Football Club (JFC) and the Fremantle Dockers Foundation. Starkick is run by the community and utilises existing community resources to empower children previously unable to participate in mainstream sporting teams with the ability to play with their local community club.

Now in its second year, Starkick has more than 50 participants across Perth, including children with autism, cerebral palsy and vision impairment.

Accessible Arts, The Deaf Arts Network, NSW

Accessible Arts, The Deaf Arts Network (DAN) has brokered significant benefits to the deaf community and the greater arts sector. Through its dynamic cultural program, DAN gives people greater access to professional opportunities in the arts sector.

The program offers a platform for deaf artists to become leaders in their chosen art form. It also enables and promotes better access to the arts for deaf and hard of hearing audiences.

DAN has forged innovative and high-profile partnerships and events with cultural organisations such as Deaf Children Australia, The Australian Theatre for Young People, Sydney Philharmonic Choir, The Sydney Opera House and The Art Gallery of NSW.

Excellence in Inclusive Community Design Award

Changing Places, Association for Children with a Disability, VIC

Changing Places aims to ensure people with severe and profound disability have dignity to appropriate access to bathrooms. Changing Places is an initiative to advocate for fully accessible bathrooms with change tables and hoists for people with severe and profound disability.

It is working to break down one of the fundamental barriers to inclusion for people with disability and their carers and families.

V/Line, VIC

V/Line, Victoria’s regional public transport operator, is making it easier for customers with disability to use public transport. In 2013, it commenced the journey to become communication accessible and in 2016 became the first public transport operator in the world to be accredited in the Communication Access Symbol. More than 550 frontline staff completed disability awareness and communication training to improve their knowledge and skills. Through a collaborative approach with industry experts, customers and staff, V/Line has introduced innovative and simple solutions to improve the customer experience for people with disability.

V/Line is committed to providing an accessible public transport network that customers can easily use, engage with and participate in, enabling them greater inclusion in the community.

RSL Victoria, VIC

RSL Victoria, in partnership with Housing Choices Australia, is taking a holistic approach to a young veteran’s path to recovery. It is not just about a roof over their head – it is about supporting their transition back into the community. The partnership provides younger veterans with accommodation, individualised support to meet current and emerging needs, and transition back into the community. The objective is to deliver short to medium-term accommodation for younger veterans who are at risk of homelessness, resulting from personal difficulties, financial, health or family issues, or veterans that require care and are currently housed in age-inappropriate nursing homes.

Excellence in Technology Award

Sonokids Australia, QLD

Sonokids Australia dedicates itself to the development of accessible technology learning software, based on the core value that the internet and information technology provides an opportunity for all children and young people to participate equally and inclusively, regardless of disability.

Sonokids empowers children with blindness and low vision by helping them build the skills to use a computer or mobile touch screen device, through the Ballyland Early Learning Software. This innovative software provides an inclusive education environment for all children to enjoy playing and learning together, while specifically supporting the technology skills of children who are vision impaired.

OrbIT – accessible gaming system, SA

OrbIT is an accessible gaming system that enhances and improves the lives of children with limited hand function so they can participate in a new form of therapy. OrbIT is the result of a collaborative partnership between Flinders University, the University of South Australia, and the Women’s and Children’s Health Network in Adelaide.

The technology combines therapy and fun into an accessible and home-based solution that children with disability can play with independently. OrbIT has been trialled with children with hand impairments due to cerebral palsy, as well as adults post-stroke (during their sub-acute phase of rehabilitation), and in both cases has shown positive rehabilitation results.

Rehabilitation Robots Development Partnership, VIC

The Humanoid Robot NAO helps children with cerebral palsy to boost and maintain the resilience, focus and motivation needed to go through intensive rehabilitation. The design of software for NAO to serve as a companion to children during rehabilitation is the result of collaboration between computer scientists, physiotherapists, doctors and psychologists, known as the Rehabilitation Robots Development Partnership.

At 58 cm in height, the Humanoid Robot NAO is an interactive and personable robot companion made up of a multitude of sensors, motors, and software. The Rehabilitation Robots Development Partnership has equipped NAO with a range of interactive capabilities to instruct, demonstrate and motivate children as they perform rehabilitation exercises.

The Humanoid Robot NAO, designed and sold by Aldebaran Robotics, is currently in its fifth version, with more than 9,000 NAOs already sold around the world.

Excellence in Education and Training Award

Dandelion Program, Department of Human Services, ACT

The Dandelion Program aims to focus on using the strengths of people with Autism spectrum Disorder (ASD) and find work that suits them. The Dandelion Program shifts the focus from disability to ability.

In collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Danish organisation Specialisterne, the Australian Government Department of Human Services has developed and implemented the program. It provides people with ASD with opportunities for skilled employment in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). In January 2015, the program provided traineeships for 11 people with ASD working in the Department’s ICT software testing hub in Adelaide. The program has expanded to Brisbane and Canberra, and most recently to other government departments, including the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.