What is Mainstream and Me and why is it important?
Have you heard about our Mainstream and Me project? We asked two new Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) recruits Alex and Ella to explain what Mainstream and Me is, what it aims to do, and why it’s important.
Mainstream and Me is a new project that will see people with intellectual and physical disabilities working together with other people in the community. It aims to increase awareness around New South Wales of the trouble people with disabilities have in gaining employment, as well as to end stereotypes that keep them from getting and holding down a job.
Mainstream and Me is working towards an equal society where people with disabilities are able to show they can operate normally and live normal lives. This began in earnest in late 2017 with the Mainstream and Me project workers hitting the streets of their local suburbs to gather information with surveys. These surveys asked people what they knew of intellectual disabilities, if they would consider hiring someone with a disability, and what information they would like about intellectual disabilities.
The other major aim of the project is, as mentioned above, to end stereotypes. The Mainstream and Me project workers range from those with Asperger’s to dyslexia and cerebral palsy. We seek to show that all of us, regardless of our outward appearance or disability, can function perfectly fine and work as good as, or better than, anyone else. Many of the workers have stories of either being rejected or being badly treated at work because of their disabilities, and we are out to show we are normal.
Mainstream and Me will eventually take its workers beyond local communities to rural New South Wales and to conferences and panels interstate.
To me, Mainstream and Me is about helping people find jobs and helping people with disability find things to do. Some people don’t understand about disability. I want to tell a story about how we are all the same and we should be treated respectfully, not put down or patronised.
Employment is important to me because I think everyone should have a job and be respected. So you can go to work and think, ‘Yes I’ve got a job to do,’ instead of just staying at home. I worked for a year for a fast food company. It was a great place to start with, but after a while people started to treat me disrespectfully and to put me down because I have an intellectual disability. I didn’t like it. I may take longer to do things and need help with the money side, but I’m very capable.
I saw (CID facilitator) Alanna speak at a Disability Network program and I thought ‘Oh wow she’s doing an amazing job and I wish I had that dream job’. So when I saw this job I thought, ‘That’s it- I’m applying’.
It’s been great working on this project and it’s been an honour. I’m so grateful I’ve got this job. This is my dream job. I just want to see change in the world and I want to see everything in the disability industry change. In a few weeks Alex and I are going to the ‘Have a Say’ conference. We’re going to tell people about our project and how we’re going to help people with disability.
To find out more about Mainstream and me, read Mainstream and Me celebrates a lasting impact.
Mainstream and Me was funded by the NDIS through the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC)- ILC National Readiness Grants.