I was cruising down the Canadian highway on a pitch-black winter night on my way home from giving music lessons to kids. Snow covered the road and my windscreen, blocking visibility. And then my own vision failed. My eyesight blacked out.
Terrified. I steered true until my eyesight returned.
It was the start of a journey into becoming blind as these incidents would happen more frequently. I was blind once every single hour around the clock.
I sought help from medical professionals who found out it was an unknown spinal fluid pressure problem and could address it.
Now I'm back in Canberra. My eyesight is not great, and I still suffer from idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Thankfully I don't have blindness anymore but by going blind, it gave me perspective.
I am Rachel Sirr, the executive officer of People with Disabilities ACT (PWDACT).
Every day, 65,000 Canberrans face some type of disability. While some people are born with it, others can develop a disability in later life. And of course they are interlinked with our health system just as much with other systems.
Indeed all elements of society can better intersect with, and be more considerate of people with disabilities. From removing segregation in our education system, to having 100 per cent accessible and more frequent public transport.
All in all, it's about consideration. A deaf person using sign language should always be offered an interpreter. When hosting an event, think about how someone with a wheelchair could enter the building? Where are the accessible bathrooms located?
If someone is blind, don't give documents in hard copy without reading them all out loud, or better still, send them a soft copy document that is actually readable by their screen reader. Many fancy, pretty documents are just not readable by screen readers.
We can have more thoughtful infrastructure planning. And this will benefit everyone! For example - parks, paths and playgrounds that are wheelchair friendly will also be pram friendly and barbecue areas all accessible. Tactile ground surface indicators added on pavements provide guidance, and ramps and lifts in buildings should be a given.
Now more than ever libraries present a crucial part of society - of all abilities. We look forward to libraries being reinvigorated as meeting places. To encourage communities to gather together, uphold a sense of belonging; with more programs and resources including updated Braille to their collections.
Today is a day to build greater consideration and respect among us all, for Canberra to grow towards a truly inclusive city and society.
CEO, Rachel Sirr