As a child growing up, Andy Waite never thought he would move out of his parent’s home but now he’s living independently for the first time in a state-of-the-art new $2.3 million Parramatta accommodation complex set to be officially opened by Federal Minister for Human Services Marise Payne today.
The 27-year-old is just one of an estimated 80 Australians living with a rare physical disability known as Morquio.
Andy uses a wheelchair for mobility and has range of other physical characteristics that often make daily tasks more difficult to manage.
Despite the extra obstacles he must overcome on a daily basis, the Information Technology worker has chosen to put his disability to one side and not let it stop him from living life like most other young men his age.
He has tattoos, likes hanging out with his mates, is a diehard fan of the Western Sydney Wanderers and even captains their powerchair football team.
Like an estimated 28,000 other Australians with disability, until recently there was one major barrier holding Andy back in his quest to be fully independent – a shortage of appropriate accommodation.
“I have wanted to live independently for a while and be able to do my own thing without having mum and dad to do things for me,” he said.
“Mum and Dad’s house wasn’t wheelchair accessible and I couldn’t open the front gate on my own.
“Mum was working her life around mine and vice versa because she’d have to be home to let me in the gate.”
Andy said because his family home was not wheelchair accessible, many of his friends could not visit and he was unable to do basic tasks like cook on his own.
“I felt like a burden on my parents but never thought I’d be able to live on my own because there was nowhere to go.”
For Andy there is a now a new place he calls home – his own apartment in a modern, universally accessible new North Parramatta complex along with four other people with disability.
“Here I am able to do pretty much everything on my own and I won’t have to rely on my parents,” Andy said.
“I will be able to have friends here, cook my own meals and not have to slot my day around my parents.
“I’m now living in close proximity to the shops, most of my mates live around here and I can go to the Leagues Club without having to worry about mum or dad coming to pick me up.”
The new complex Andy calls home was made possible thanks to a partnership between disability service provider Northcott and community housing provider Evolve Housing as part of the Australian Government’s $60 million Supported Accommodation Innovation Fund.
Northcott Chief Executive Officer Kerry Stubbs said the model of support Northcott offers tenants of the new complex is a first for disability accommodation.
“There is a three bedroom affordable housing unit on the lower level of this new complex that support tenants from the community will live in and will provide informal care to people like Andy.” she said.
“This is not formal care, but just good neighbourliness, like being around if there is a crisis or ensuring you check in to see your neighbours are ok.
“The new complex will give people with disabilities the opportunity they deserve to live life their way in an environment that will allow them to become more involved in the local community.”
Evolve Housing Chief Executive Officer Andrea Galloway said the revolutionary and innovative person centred features incorporated in the Platinum Livable Housing design of the new complex make it truly accessible for people with varying levels of disability.
“A lift service, accommodation for support staff, adjustable toilets, adjustable kitchen bench tops and adjustable wall cupboards are just some of the innovative features of this accommodation complex that provide people with disability with an independence that is truly life changing,” she said.
More new accommodation options like this are needed for people with disabilities, Andy Waite said.
“I’ve got mates that would love to be able to live on their own but there’s nowhere for them to go.
“We need more places like this because they give people with disabilities the chance to contribute more to the community.”