More than 60 organisations across the health, disability and ageing sectors have released a joint statement urging the Federal Government to end age discrimination in disability support and give older Australians living with a disability but who are excluded from the NDIS equal access to assistive technology.

Led by the Assistive Technology for All campaign, the statement asks the Federal Government to respond to the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission by giving older Australians with disability who are excluded from the NDIS equal access to assistive technology and support like wheelchairs, grab rails, and prosthetic limbs.

Signatories on the joint statement include Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and organisations such as Council on the Ageing Australia, Consumers Health Forum of Australia, National Disability Services, Uniting Care, Aged and Community Services Australia, and Older Persons Advocacy Network.

“For years the Federal Government has focused exclusively on the NDIS as the vehicle to support people with disability. In doing so, it has continued to ignore the needs of the many Australians with disability who are not eligible for the scheme, which includes many people over 65,” says Campaign Coordinator Lauren Henley.

“The Assistive Technology for All campaign has united more than 60 organisations that work with people living with disability every day who are excluded from the NDIS and desperate for support.

“Australia needs a national assistive technology program that operates alongside the NDIS to provide essential support and technology to the thousands of people with disability who aren’t covered by the scheme.”

A recent report commissioned by the Department of Health found that for every dollar spent, the timely provision of assistive technology offered a return on investment between $3.90 to $25.63.

“If you have a disability and you need a prosthetic leg, that need doesn’t disappear the day you turn 65. Depriving people of this support is simply ageism,” says Ms Henley.

“Older people who can’t access the NDIS are often forced to wait more than a year to access funding for assistive technology. If they are lucky enough to have resources some people manage to partly or fully fund it themselves. For those who can’t they simply go without.

“It’s heartbreaking to see older people denied access to the same life-changing support as younger Australians, even though they need it just as much. To tell their families that they can’t get funding for a wheelchair that will give them back their independence and quality of life, simply because they are too old.

“The Royal Commission into Aged Care offered a glimmer of hope in its final report, recommending that older Australians be given access to the same technology and support as younger people living with similar levels of impairment.

Read the full joint statement here.