One man standing and one man sitting in a wheelchair on a balcony

Mateship inspires a new path and new initiative for independent living through Accessible Homes Australia – an organisation set on helping people with disabilities.  

Bred through personal struggle and solidified through mateship, a new era for accessible housing is dawning in South-East Queensland.

No stranger to assisting others with disability through the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation, Perry Cross and Tom Ray joined forces with two other mates to create Accessible Homes Australia to help provide a future which would have been unlikely, just a few short years ago.

Perry, who was left a C2 ventilated quadriplegic following a tackle during a rugby union game in 1994, said his own journey, combined with Tom’s mateship, which was explored recently in Feros Care’s Growing Bold and Finding Independence podcast, sparked the foundations of AHA.

“I’d been living with family all my life and I bought a unit in Southport and was focussed on getting into my own house” Perry said.

“I engaged Tom and a couple of mates to help solve an issue, and as we got closer to demolition on the unit, we realised it would be the wrong move to make for me, so we went, ‘hang on a sec, maybe there’s another opportunity we’re not thinking about’.

“That’s when we thought of Accessible Homes Australia and how it would not only be a better solution for me, but for other people in similar situations.”

Intertwining with friendship, banter and everything that comes with it, Perry and Tom have been enjoying the opportunity to work together to help change lives.

HOW AHA PLANS ON CHANGING LIVES

After having his own “life changed”, Perry now lives in Broadbeach in a fully accessible apartment with easy access to beaches, support networks and lifestyle options, and AHA wants to provide others with the same opportunity.

By investing in and providing specialist disability home apartments for those participating in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) under the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) program, AHA will offer apartments within everyday communities.

Beginning with a development at Palm Beach scheduled for occupation in July 2021, Tom said eligible SDA participants could access homes such as those being made available by AHA, almost entirely through their approved NDIS plan, with no up-front investment, other than items such as furniture and personal effects.

AHA can place eligible NDIS participants as long-term, permanent tenants through their SDA entitlement, with a “reasonable rent contribution” leading to a tailored and modified lifestyle to suit individual needs and circumstances.

“The lifestyle attributes the Gold Coast offers are popular, so we want to offer that and provide individual apartments people can live in within their own four walls, but in a precinct where there’s other people around them to provide some care and support,” Tom said.

“For Palm Beach, there’ll be seven SDA standard apartments in a building of 33 units, plus an eighth apartment which is a carers apartment. It’s independent living, but with the benefit of having a carer, and lifestyle opportunities.”

The high physical support, two-bedroom apartments will offer customised kitchens, accessible laundry and bathrooms, provisioning for bedroom hoists, a balcony, and pre-fitting for customised home automation and communication technologies.

While starting close to home with the apartments, AHA has big plans to assist others with disability, with Brisbane and potentially northern New South Wales in their scope, before moving onto the national landscape.

Abled and disabled man sitting in living room, smiling

HOW MATESHIP CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR OTHERS

While it’s serious business, Perry and Tom said they were embracing the opportunity to expand their friendship, which was born over 25 years ago at The Southport School.

From funding research to try and cure spinal cord injuries through the Foundation, to sparking their journey through AHA to help play a part in providing independent living for nearly 30,000 Australians living with extreme functional impairment or very high support needs, Perry and Tom are enjoying the ride.

“I honestly don’t see it as business, I’m having a lot of fun. There’s serious outcomes we don’t joke about, but it’s probably the most enjoyable thing I’ve done in business in 20 odd years, and it’s great to be able to help people,” Tom said.

“There’s plenty of banter, it’s fun and exciting, and I’m just so excited to see this happen,” Perry added.

“When people move into these places, you’ve helped in a little way to change people’s lives and put a smile on their face when they haven’t always had that opportunity

“To me, the big thing is going to be seeing people’s outcomes change in their day to day lives and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

To hear Perry and Tom’s Growing Bold and Finding Independence podcast and others, visit our Grow Bold With Disability Podcast series here.

 

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