International Day of People with Disability will be celebrated this Friday, December 3, a day dedicated to creating a more inclusive world for people living with a disability.
This is something STEPS managing director Carmel Crouch has been doing for more than 32 years after beginning her journey to create a better, fairer life for people with a disability.
What started as a group of concerned parents wanting more for their children, grew into a national not-for-profit organisation providing a buffet of ‘hand up’ services with opportunities for thousands of people with a disability and autism every year.
After being at the STEPS helm for more than three decades it seems Carmel has lost none of her passion, as evidenced by her latest achievement for people with a disability and autism, STEPS Pathways College.
STEPS Pathways College is a ground-breaking model aimed at giving young adults with a disability and autism the chance to learn a broad range of skills to prepare them for lifelong independence.
The College provides students with a holistic living and learning environment in which their skills can be fostered and tested before entering the community ready to tackle life as an independent young adult.
When asked what Carmel’s drive was in establishing STEPS Pathways College, it seems not much has changed. Carmel says she will never stop searching for ways to create a more inclusive society for people with a disability.
“Being a parent of child with a disability can be scary. Parents today still live in fear wondering what will happen to their child when they are no longer there to take care of them,” she said.
“I talk to parents every day who are desperate to find a way to ensure their child will live a long healthy and happy life. My greatest achievement so far is to give parents that opportunity to see their children graduate from STEPS as incredibly confident and capable young adults.”
Carmel said the demand for places at the College is growing and growing, particularly now that students were able to access their NDIS funding to support their learning. With plans to replicate the College throughout Australia over the next 5 years, Carmel hopes to make independent living for people with a disability the new norm in Australia.
“We still have a long way to go to create truly inclusive living for people with a disability, but I intend on committing my life to make the changes we need to get there.”