Blind Citizens Australia and Vision 2020 have called on the Australian Government to address identified barriers to services for people aged 65 and over who are blind and vision impaired.
The Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Act 2013 does not explicitly recognise people with disability, including people who are blind or vision impaired. Instead, disability acquired in older age is perceived as frailty, rather than disability. This creates a barrier to accessing specific supports and services that can help maintain independence and quality of life.
CEO of Blind Citizens Australia Emma Bennison said, “People who are blind or vision impaired and aged over 65 are being written off.
“We are locked into an aged care system which has been established to focus on the health related needs of frail Australians as they age. Yet the vast majority of us are still healthy, active and contributing members of our communities when we turn 65.
“There is no doubt we are at serious risk of economic and social disadvantage unless the legislation is amended so that the specific needs of people with disability are prioritised. After all, people who are blind or vision impaired have the same right as anyone else to lead a full and productive life whether we are 25 or 75.”
CEO of Vision 2020 Australia Carla Northam agreed, stating, “As the population ages, the number of those affected by low vision and blindness will also grow.
“We encourage the Australian Government to ensure forthcoming Federal Budgets accommodate these needs as a matter of urgency, as this age group is not eligible for support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).”
Vision 2020 Australia has launched a position statement, which outlines the specific measures needed for those who are blind or vision impaired in the aged care system.
“These measures are in keeping with the recommendations made in the Legislated Review of Aged Care 2017, led by Mr. David Tune AO PSM, which was tabled in Parliament in September, and which the eye health and vision care sector supports,” said Ms. Northam.
In its position statement, Vision 2020 Australia called on the Australian Government to implement these measures:
• Amend the Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Act 2013 to include people with disability, including people who are blind or vision impaired as a special needs group.
• Appropriately resource and inform aged care assessment to identify and respond to the needs of people who are blind or vision impaired and people with disability more broadly.
• Ensure that co-payments do not create a barrier for people who are blind or vision impaired in accessing the most appropriate supports and services they need to remain independent and engaged in their community.
• Develop a nationally consistent aids, equipment and assistive technology program for older Australians to redress the current inequitable access to aids and equipment and assistive technology, as per the recommendation put forward by the both the Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s report Low Vision, quality of live and independence: A review of the evidence on aids and technologies and supported by the National Aged Care Alliance in its report.
You can read the Position Statement on Aged Care here.