Louise Zammit: Louise is extremely passionate about having a voice and providing information for people with disabilities. “Born with spina bifida, I am a strong advocate for sharing ideas and information and getting my story out there so that the wider community can gain a better understanding of what it is like to have a disability.
“I want an opportunity to spread that message. I have faced many barriers getting out into the community and workforce due to travel costs as I don't drive and also finding a workplace that is accessible. Oi is a platform that people with a disability can not only find information, resources and tools but have a voice and choice.”
Sarah Hyland: Lifestart Director Sarah Hyland and her husband Adam have three children: Leo aged 10 years and twin girls Peggy and Lizzy who are five. Two of their children have disabilities. Leo has Asperger Syndrome and Lizzy has Down syndrome.
“We have engaged with Lifestart since the twins were six weeks old and have accessed most every service provided by the Lifestart organisation. From Hanen speech courses, to behavioural management and toileting strategies as well as weekly session around gross motor, fine motor and literacy skills, we accessed services, programs and information – whatever we could find.”
Sarah felt so strongly about advocacy, information and the importance of early intervention, that she joined the Lifestart board in December 2013 and wants to ensure that information is easily accessible to all.
Robyn Ryan: Robyn is very passionate about ensuring that information and support is easily available to people with a disability, their family and friends. “I have been living with my spinal cord injury for 39 years as a result of being a passenger in a fatigue related motor vehicle accident. At 17 I became paraplegic and I have been using a wheelchair for mobility ever since.
“In the first couple of years following my injury, life was an emotional roller coaster ride, not only for me but also for my immediate family. As I came to terms with the changes in my life I realised that disability related information, family and peer support were the things that were going to help me get through and back to living an independent life. Post injury I was living with my family in regional NSW, in the years long before the world wide web and Facebook, so information, specific medical advice and peer support were not easily available.
However I made it! I have done most of the things that people my age have done – I have studied, married, had two children and I am currently working in the disability sector. Due to my life experiences, being an Ambassador for Oi enables me to feed my passion; I can direct people to the Oi website where they can connect to resources and find support.
Mark Tonga: In his early twenties, Mark started the long journey of fifteen years of self-empowerment through continual part-time study of mature age literacy and numeracy courses, TAFE for matriculation, then the University of Technology to eventually achieve a Bachelor of Business (Accounting).
In 2008 Mark suffered a catastrophic sport injury. He was immobilised from the neck down and suddenly he had to adjust from being ’10 foot tall and bulletproof’ to learning how to breathe (sometimes with a machine), to be fed, to communicate, to somehow be depend on others without being dependent. His grittiness, ‘can-do’ optimism and continual focus on others have turned this around. His community contribution is not just from his example of resilience but what he achieves for others.
Wendy Harris: Wendy holds a great belief about representing, promoting, engaging, sharing and volunteering in the disability sector to enhance the lives of others with a disability or those connected with disability. Having acquired a spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic in a car accident when she was a child, she uses her knowledge as a trainer educating carers in spinal cord injury care.
Wendy describes herself as a social person who enjoys a good murder mystery, loves genealogy and cooks a great curried apricot chicken.
Wendy is eager to spread the word on the Oi platform, “As I work in the sector I am close to a lot of new and emerging information on disability, so am usually able to source out what I personally need but I can understand the difficulty in trying to source information on disability for others that do not have the same resources as me. All areas can be difficult to find out about if you don’t have the resources to research. Quite often disability is the last thing organisations (particularly private), the wider community and the media give consideration to.”