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Mark Hopper

Mark Hopper

In 1982, when I was 20, I had a motor bike accident that left me with a disability. Requiring artificial limbs and a wheelchair, I lived the next 17 years as best I could.  Work, marriage, kids, divorce and finding new love occupied my life. An average Aussie bloke’s experience these days I guess? The one thing that was not average was that my family and I experienced direct and indirect discrimination in regards to accessing goods and services within my community.    

I felt helpless and frustrated, but what could I do? In 1999 that changed. I discovered the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992! I felt empowered and for the next two years I encouraged my local council – Mornington Peninsula- to apply the DDA in their planning process so developers would make their new buildings wheelchair accessible.  I failed. The reason was council opinion; it wasn’t subject to Federal legislation! I kept advocating anyway.  In 2001 a major culture change occurred within council. The DDA was recognised and work began to incorporate it in all council policies. I would like to think I assisted in some minor way to that culture change. Regardless, the experience gained, the friendship and contacts made in that time placed me at the forefront as a volunteer assisting and advising various council departments with community reference groups and disability training.

Finally, I would like to say, my journey and challenges of having a disability and advocating for equitable access is far from over. I am happy to say that in 2013 my council has become a very progressive and committed organisation that encourages and plans for the provision of access and inclusion within our local community. I certainly look forward to being part of that process.