Three women and a man with lanyards around their necks, posing for a picture

To be included - it sounds like such a simple request yet for thousands of Australians it is out of reach.  But Feros Care is helping to change that by driving, supporting and promoting inclusive communities as part of its role in delivering the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“Inclusivity is only made possible when we consciously take steps to remove the barriers to equity,” says Carly Hennessy, Feros Care’s Community Development Coordinator for South Australia.

“People aren’t disabled by their conditions; they are disabled by the environment around them and that’s something we can change.”

And it’s something Carly has been working on changing over the past few years, by taking away the confusion around what ‘access and inclusion’ is and supporting people to incorporate it. 

It’s a role she relishes thanks to Feros Care’s ‘no holds barred’ approach that allows her the freedom to think outside the box and develop place-based solutions.

Removing barriers in society

As a community partner for the NDIS, Feros Care works to identify gaps, strengths and needs within communities to improve access for those living with disability.

Feros Care subscribes to the social model of disability, believing people are disabled by barriers in society that need to be removed to create equality and offer people more independence, choice and control.

The four most common barriers to inclusivity are attitudinal, communication, environmental and institutional. They can be anything from discriminatory policies, to unsuitable infrastructure.

Building community capacity

Carly says Feros Care’s main objective is to build the community’s capacity to become more inclusive and it starts with educating people about what inclusion looks like.

“The first step is to create awareness of the roadblocks or barriers some people face when trying to access community spaces, services, programs and events,” says Carly.

“Nobody intentionally makes something inaccessible, it’s just that they either don’t think about it, or don’t have the support to execute it. 

“Once we identify the roadblocks we support organisations to make adjustments, which may include up-skilling staff, improving infrastructure and updating communication.”

Inclusive community projects

Feros Care has been spearheading inclusive community projects across the country, collaborating with government, not-for-profits and other community groups to create projects designed specifically for, or to give access to, people living with disability.

In Carly’s domain of South Australia, some of these projects include the Look n’ Cook video series in partnership with the City of Playford Council to help people build skills and independence; and the  Multi-Sports Mash-up with Belgravia Leisure - a modified sports program for people of all abilities. Recently Carly also led the project  All-in For Art  - a competition and exhibition (sponsored by Gawler Council) designed to enliven creativity and to strengthen knowledge of what it means to live with a disability. 

Carly has also worked with people living with disability to create Your Disability, Your Way – a guide to promoting self-advocacy and inclusivity; and partnered with the RSPCA on the  Animals Matter Project.

She says taking a ‘collective impact’ approach through community collaboration and working in co-design is at the centre of Feros Care’s practice.

“Our philosophy is ‘by the community, for the community’”, says Carly.

“We’ve spent the last few years building relationships by reaching out to community and mainstream organisations with our own project ideas after identifying needs in the local region.

“Those projects have been so successful that we now have groups and businesses coming to us with ideas and wanting our support to make their projects inclusive and accessible.”

Foundations for wider inclusivity

Carly says while disability is the initial focus, the work she does sets the foundations for wider inclusivity, including for those from culturally diverse backgrounds, seniors, and vulnerable or isolated groups.

“When roadblocks are taken down, we create more inclusive spaces, activities, events and services, and ultimately a more connected and accepting society,” she says.

“At Feros Care, we see ourselves as the glue that brings people together and gently guides the community to a more inclusive tomorrow.

“It’s rewarding work and I’m proud to be working in a space that is so innovative and valuable.”

Carly is pictured above second from the left, alongside her team of fellow Local Area Coordinators at the recent All-In For Art Exhibition.

Does Feros Care sound like a place you’d like to work? See our current career opportunities here.

Find out more about our  projects in the community here. 

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