Tag Archives: australia

Last Day in Australia

by Sandy Masayko

This is the final post from Australia and Sandy’s exploration and sharing of assistive technology

1332 stairs! That’s how many stairs my son and I climbed today on the Harbour Bridge Climb. It was a wonderful way to end my study tour in Australia: I now have the broad view of Australian services for people with disabilities! I treasure my many new acquaintances and I’ve seen a wide range of programs that have made me think about how we can adapt some of our programs in Pennsylvania.

  • Thank you to the National Office of Easterseals for selecting me for the study tour.
  • Thank you to Easterseals of SEPA for supporting my trip.
  • And thanks most of all to the hosts during my trip: Northcott, Rocky Bay and Ability Centre, affiliates of Ability First Australia.
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Special thanks to Northcott for the gift of the Bridge Climb passes.

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The Harbour Bridge is 134 meters (440 feet) high. We climbed through intermittent rain today for beautiful views of Sydney.

Sandy has shared her journey through a series of blog posts. You can read the first one here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here, the eighth here, the ninth here and the tenth here.

Rocky Bay: Wide-Ranging Services in the Region of Perth

by Sandy Masayko

This is Sandy’s seventh post in a series from Australia

Perth is considered to be one of the most remote cities in the world, but life in the city seems remarkably similar to life in the western US. The ranch style houses with their red tiled roofs and beach front properties surrounded by Eucalyptus trees remind me of California. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but even many Australians do not make the cross-country trip to see this region.

Services for people with disabilities are part of the fabric of the community in Perth. Rocky Bay is an agency that started out as the Western Australia Society for Crippled Children about 80 years ago. When the location of the center moved about 25 years ago, it adopted the name of the location where the main offices are. It now serves all people with disabilities. As with Northcott, Rocky Bay provides an impressive array of services for people with disabilities. I was warmly welcomed with a tour by the CEO Michael Tait and enjoyed morning tea with the senior executives of the organization. I had met many of the folks at the staff celebration on Saturday night, but on Monday morning everyone was back in work mode. Here are some of the highlights of my visit:

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As part of the Leisure, Lifestyle and Learning Department, a sensory room is available to residents and community members. Pauline Castles & Kylie Murphy showed me the accommodations and programs that develop independence.

Accommodations for people with disabilities are a rapidly expanding service at Rocky Bay. Facilities at Rocky Bay include spaces for recreational programs including woodworking, crafts, community dances, and a sensory room open to the public for a small charge. The living arrangements vary from group living with nursing support to individual adapted apartments for one to four people located in the community. The wide-open spaces and universal design promote accessibility. Several apartments contain height-adjustable sinks and stoves that are changed by using hand cranks, something that I had never seen before.

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Emma Bogue demonstrated the height adjustable sink.

Rocky Bay is experiencing rapid growth due to the changes in funding and the merger of organizations. I met with members of the HR Department and later the Strategy Team to discuss how the agency is managing recruitment and retention of staff, professional development, quality assurance, planning for future growth and communication. Communication Manager Rachel Horton edits a weekly e-newsletter that staff uses to share programs and issues. This is important because staff members can work in consulting roles throughout Western Australia, an area approximately as large as one third of the US.

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Human Resources Team members Rosanna Abannizie, Jackie Vernon & Wendy Tappe

You can read Sandy’s first post here, second post here, third post here, fourth post here, fifth post here and sixth post here.

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Assistive Technology in the Land Down Under!

by Sandy Masayko

This is the second post in a series Sandy will be doing from Australia

After traveling for about 30 hours I landed in Sydney on Friday morning, made it through customs, and I am now enjoying hot summer weather and a little culture shock.  The culture is not shocking in big ways: everyone speaks English, of course, and the people are a diverse group like you’d see in an American city. People are friendly and polite. But the sound of the language is different, the spelling too, as well as some vocabulary.

ATMs are everywhere so it’s easy to get cash just like in the states. The money is organized in a dollar system with the paper bills increasing in size to reflect greater values. There are no paper dollars, instead one and two dollar coins.  Pennies have been eliminated.  The smallest coin is 5 cents. Payment amounts are rounded up or down to deal with the missing pennies. Right now the Australian dollar is worth about $0.75 US, so I mentally calculate percentages to see what things “really” cost.

Since I am here to look at issues around disability, I decided to test out accessibility on public transportation by lugging my 40-pound suitcase, duffel bag and backpack on the train from the airport.  (Normally I travel much lighter, but I am bringing books for my Australian colleagues.)  Despite my burdens, it was easy to travel on the train from the airport and change to another line because of the “lifts” (known in the US as elevators), curb cuts and seating set aside for people with special needs: age, disability, or other issue.  The biggest accessibility challenge was getting up to my hotel, located on a hill in North Sydney with 12 steps leading up to the entrance. As I hauled the suitcase up the steps an Australian woman my age came to my rescue to assist me.

The next few days are vacation for me, and a chance to catch up with my son, who lives in Sydney.  I will travel to a section of Sydney called Parramatta on Sunday to be close to Northcott, the first center I will be visiting in Australia.

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Sharing Assistive Technology Ideas in Australia

by Sandy Masayko, Director of Assistive Technology at Easter Seals of SE PA

During my recent trip to Australia, I was delighted to meet with therapists who are providing Assistive Technology (AT) and Augmentative /Alternative Communication (AAC) services in Melbourne.  On September 1, Anne Williams, of the Occupational Therapy Department at Swinburne University of Technology, arranged for me to meet with occupational therapists and speech/language pathologists from ComTEC. ComTEC is a division of Yooralla, a provider of services for people with disabilities in Melbourne.  As we talked, we discovered that share many similar concerns in providing AT and AAC services and devices, including funding, planning instruction and problem solving with families and caregivers.  Anne also invited faculty members from Swinburne in the areas of Occupational Therapy, Robotics and Biomedical Engineering to learn about the work we are doing in eye gaze technology with young children.

The following day, September 2, I made a short presentation to occupational therapists at the Vic-Tas (Victoria and Tasmania) Regional Conference of Occupational Therapy in Melbourne.  The paper, focusing on factors related to use of eye gaze technology with young children, was well received.  Attendees asked many questions.  I was very interested to learn about issues being addressed by occupational therapists in Australia.  The emphasis in many presentations was on self-reflective practice, engaging consumers and promoting participation for people with disabilities.

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Pictured in the photo, Anne Williams on the left and  Sandy Masayko on the right at the Vic-Tas Regional Conference of Occupational Therapy in Melbourne.