Disability, independence and housing - Forward Ability Support

Disability, independence and housing

By Scott Taylor

Most people’s life goals are to find love and a good job, whereas mine as someone with a disability, was “Independence” – something I believed was impossible for 29 years.

I lived in Newcastle at home with my family. Our home is in a rural area, so access, social interactions and meeting new people was challenging. I lacked confidence and self-esteem and couldn’t access the community. Just ‘getting in my wheelchair and going across the street to the shops’ wasn’t possible as the nearest major shopping centre was 15-20 minutes’ drive away.

Not being able to interact with people outside of my immediate family impacted me negatively. I withdrew from life and felt isolated, lonely, and depressed. I questioned my self-worth and what value I could bring to people’s lives. I even wondered if I deserved to set goals and dreams when independence seemed out of reach, and that is what my dreams required.

Upon completing my high school in 2008, I didn’t know where I wanted to go, so I tried many things. I attended multiple universities between 2010 and 2012 but it wasn’t for me.

Big changes came in 2013; I moved back home after spending the previous year living on campus studying in Canberra and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) began rolling out to trial sites before national expansion. The Newcastle local government area was the first place where participants gained access, so I was among the first people on NDIS, which I am very grateful for.

The first NDIS-enabled step towards independence was renovating a bathroom at home to be more accessible so I could shower independently. Before this, every time I wanted to shower, I had to rely on my parents or brother to be there and assist me. For a 23–24-year-old man it was awkward and uncomfortable because it took away my privacy and personal space.

Being able to shower independently was just the beginning. I yearned for independence in housing, and meaningful employment.

My parents were fed up with my brother and I sitting at home doing nothing and were desperate for us to find purpose and contribute. In January 2014, they decided to purchase a retail business for my brother and I to run and co-manage. I spent 6 days a week working in this business with my brother and dad.

In 2016, another significant change grew my independence, social skills, confidence and self-esteem when I found support workers with shared interests. I was able to get out of the house more regularly, was no longer stuck in the same routine and socially isolated.

As time went by, my confidence and self-belief grew so I set a goal to work for the tech giant “Apple”, a company I am an avid fan of.

In May 2019, I accepted a job offer at Apple Sydney, the flagship Apple store in Australia which meant I had to move out and away from my family entirely. I moved to a privately rented apartment and my parents assisted me financially. I had my dream job, and I’d achieved a life beyond anything I could have imagined. I was the first person in a wheelchair in Apple store Sydney’s retail team.

After two-and-a-half wonderful years at Apple, I accepted an opportunity to give back to others in the disability community.

In November 2022, through the NDIS, I was approved for Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Funding, didn’t have to rely on my family’s support and moved into an accessible apartment that gave me even greater independence.

When I reflect, I realise that my ultimate goal throughout was to live a life of complete independence.

Author’s bio:

Scott Taylor is a passionate Sydney-based disability advocate, and an avid supporter of the NDIS as one of the first participants on the scheme. Represented by Champion Health Agency, Scott enjoys giving back and engaging with the community to ensure that all of us – regardless of our situation and circumstances – can go on to live a life of their choice. Scott has advocated to State and Federal Ministers of Parliament, been interviewed by Kurt Fearnley on ‘A Nation Changed’, spoken at Disability Expos and shared his lived experience for technology giant Apple at the Global Accessibility Awareness Day event.