How SCIA’s advocacy team helped give Noel a voice
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As a child, Noel always loved swimming and the ocean. He became a surf life saver at a young age, working endlessly to make the beaches a safer place. Even into his retirement, you could not keep him out of the water.
Noel and his wife Jan were looking forward to spending their later years travelling, spending time with family and enjoying some much earned rest and relaxation. At age 67, Noel was still an active member of the lifesaving club and swam every day.
Then one day, Noel collapsed in the ocean. He was pulled from the surf and they later found he had a spinal arteriovenous malformation. He went into surgery, reassured that everything would be fine. When Noel came out of surgery, he was no longer able to feel or use his legs.
Everything turned on its head and all the plans they had suddenly lay in tatters.
But as Jan says “Noel has an amazing attitude and strength of spirit” and refused to be defeated. He would not accept giving up his old active life and vowed to get back in the water.
True to his word, after months of rehabilitation he was able to get back into his local swimming pool in Ballina. Swimming got Noel out of a dark place and reconnected him with one of his greatest passions in life. Aside from all the great health benefits, being in the water again also gave him a renewed sense of physical freedom.
For 10 years after his accident, Noel regularly swam 1.5km.
Until the decision was made to revamp Ballina pool. Excitement at the prospect of a new pool quickly turned into heartache, as the pool was not fitted with the lift required to get Noel from the pool back on to his motorised scooter.
Noel said “this is the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had, swimming is such a huge part of my life and the thought of not being able to get back in my local pool has left me absolutely devastated.”
The council initially refused to install the lift, stating they had met the accessibility requirements. Noel and Jan turned to Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) advocacy team for help.
SCIA’s advocacy team were quick to take up the case on behalf of Noel and Jan. Many months were spent on the phone, writing letters and connecting with the right people, in an attempt to get Noel back in the pool. At the council these included the General Manager, the Community Manager, the Social Planner and Access Manager. What can seem like a relatively straight forward scenario can be filled with challenges and SCIA is in the best place to navigate and overcome these.
SCIA’s advocacy team worked tirelessly on the case, until the day finally arrived when approval for the lift was granted. Noel was absolutely thrilled with the prospect of once again getting back into the water.
Your support can truly make a difference to people’s lives.
SCIA is built on a foundation of advocating for the rights of people with a spinal cord injury and this remains at the very heart of who we are. Accessibility is not just a box to tick, it affects people’s lives and unfortunately, Noel’s story is all too common.
Everyone has the right to actively participate in and have equal access to their community. To ensure this happens, we desperately need your support to continue our vital advocacy service.
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Help us so that people with a spinal cord injury can fight against unfair and unjust treatment and defend their human rights.