Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Peta and I met while studying a Diploma of Access Consulting. I reached out to Peta for this chat to ask her a bit about her experiences with disability – bringing awareness to the space, advocating for people with disabilities and having one herself.
Hi Peta! Thank you so much for joining the Honeycomb community!
To start with, can you please tell us a bit about you! Who is Peta!?
Hello everyone! Well, I am a 30 something woman living in Melbourne who has Cerebral Palsy. I am a disability advocate and podcaster; who hosts and creates a weekly podcast called, The I Can't Stand Podcast.
I have so many passions. From a professional perspective, I am passionate about educating non-disabled people about what it is like to live with a disability. From a personal perspective, I love architecture, interior design, fashion and travel.
Can you please share a bit about your disability?
As I said, I have Cerebral Palsy, a lifelong disability that I was born with. So, I don't know anything different but to have a disability. Cerebral Palsy presents differently in each person but for me, it means I can't transfer independently, walk or stand. This means I use an electric wheelchair full time.
Let’s talk a bit about language. In Australia now informal/government contexts, the approach is to refer to ‘people with disability’ as opposed to ‘the disabled’, ‘people with disabilities, or ‘special needs people’ for example. What would you say is the best way to refer to disability?
Firstly, if you are referring to an individual and their disability, ask them what they prefer. We are all different with different language preferences. It is a good practice and frankly just being polite to check with the person first.
In my opinion, we are moving away from the phase, a person with a disability back to a disabled person or disabled people. The phases are pretty interchangeable however and fine to use.
I personally try to not use the phrase 'special' when referring to people in my community as I believe it has negative connotations and very much 'others' us. We are just like you, we are people. We are more alike to non-disabled people than not.
How do you like people to refer to you and your disability?
Well calling me Peta is a good start. My identity is very intertwined with my disability, unless I am swimming or in bed, I am in my wheelchair. I think other people’s anxiety about how to refer to me is a bit out of proportion. Anything from Peta who has a disability, Peta is living with a disability, Peta is a disabled person, is fine.
For me, it is all about the meaning of a word. I really dislike the phase, suffering from a disability for example because I am not suffering. I am a very privileged woman and my disability yes is challenging at times, but I am by no means suffering because of it.
"Disability is going to happen to you eventually, it happens to everyone if you live long enough. So, don't think that these design solutions are just for people with disabilities; they will also be there ready for you one day."
Why did you decide to study Access Consulting?
I wanted to better understand the access needs of other disabled people. I knew what elements of the built environment enables me to live an independent life, but disability varies so much I knew I needed to become better educated.
You’ve recently launched a new business and podcast – give it a plug!
Yes, I have! I am the creator and host of the I Can't Stand Podcast along with being a disability advocate.
On the podcast, I answer one question a week from my audience about what it is actually like to live with a disability. There is no wrong or politically incorrect question on my podcast. I'll answer anything. I believe without open communication; understanding will never occur. Without understanding, equality will not be achieved.
The episodes are super short and to the point of being an average of 10 to 15 minutes. You can listen on all podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.
As anyone would know starting a business is all-consuming but I wouldn't have it any other way. I love what I do.
What made you decide to start The I Can’t Stand Podcast?
I would only have to go grab a coffee at my local cafe and a stranger would ask me a question about my disability. I know not everyone in the disability community is comfortable answering questions as it can be quite draining but I love it.
Keeping that in mind I thought there has got to be a more efficient way to satisfy non-disabled people's curiosity; without placing that responsibility on other disabled people. So, The I Can’t Stand Podcast was born.
Tell us a bit about where you live and the accessibility requirements that you need to consider? Did you need to build from scratch to accommodate these?
I am very lucky in that I own a home that has been renovated in accordance to what my individual needs are to enable me to be independent.
I wanted to live in the city so building from scratch wasn't financially viable at the time. It took me years to find a home with a floor plan that we could adapt and manipulate through renovation. The must-haves of finding the right home for me was:
Single storey home
No external or internal steps
A room (that was positioned next to my bedroom) that could be converted into an accessible bathroom. This room had to have a consistent ceiling height to my bedroom. I use a ceiling hoist to get in and out of bed, use the toilet and shower so a consistent ceiling height was required for the embedded track.
A living room/kitchen with a lot of space to allow for ease of moving through the space in my wheelchair.
What about the wider community – what barriers do you experience?
My local main street only has two cafes with a step-free entry. My local Bakers' Delight has a huge step and my local post office is tiny and I struggle to not knock over their displays when I pick up packages. Those issues might sound small, but they are extremely annoying and inconvenient.
And what about the opposite, what positive accessibility features or spaces have you seen implemented in say, the last 5 years?
Changing Places Toilets have been life changing. I now can leave the house for longer than three hours because of them.
Also, the continual improvement of accessibility to the public transport network in Melbourne is fantastic. I can now jump onto a tram to get into the city which saves a lot of money not having to park a car in the CBD.
Although in saying that, I did read a scary statistic recently saying the public transport system in Melbourne will not be 100% accessible until 2050. I am hoping that is incorrect, as that would mean I will be 60 until this happens.
Thank you so much, Peta!
Where can our readers hear more from you?
You can listen to my podcast, The I Can’t Stand Podcast, on all podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify but for ease here is also a link.
You can follow me on Instagram. I am very active and I love my little community on Instagram.
I can also help you and your business with disability consultation. You can find more of what I offer, here.
What final message would you want to leave our readers with?
Disability is going to happen to you eventually, it happens to everyone if you live long enough. So, don't think that these design solutions are just for people with disabilities; they will also be there ready for you one day.