Today is the International Day of Disability, a day to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.
It is an important opportunity to raise awareness of the ‘invisible disabilities’, including chronic pain, and challenge the way people see or think about disability.
While living with chronic pain impacts on the daily lives of individuals, it does not limit their contributions to our communities. We have seen first-hand the influence of people living with chronic pain to their families, their workplaces and the broader public. Today is a day to celebrate these achievements.
And as we take a moment to recognise and appreciate the people in our lives who are living with chronic pain and disability, it is also an important day to increase awareness of the issues we still face at a systematic level.
Despite the high prevalence, people living with chronic pain are not always recognised as living with a disability. This can lead to the condition being ignored, which can enhance feelings of isolation, stigmatisation and discrimination. It can also lead to a lack of financial support.
People living with a disability as a result of their chronic pain condition/s can face difficulties accessing the necessary support and services as they can fall between the gap of the health and disability systems.
The ambiguity in the medical community regarding whether chronic pain is a permanent or debilitating condition is reflected by policies across the health and disability sectors and we have previously heard from many consumers who have had difficulty accessing disability services as their chronic pain conditions have not been specifically listed as a disability.
The National Disability Insurance Agency has previously informed us that a person with chronic pain may be considered to have a permanent impairment, for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) access purposes, if they provide evidence that all available treatment options, medical or otherwise, have been exhausted and that none have, or would remedy the impairment.
Last year, Painaustralia provided a submission to the Disability Royal Commission to recommend that tailored support be included and provided to consumers to help them address the requirements of the application process for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
We know that people living with chronic pain are still facing access issues to the NDIS and disability supports as their conditions are not being recognised or categorised as a disability. Prioritising pain and pain management in health and disability policy would significantly reduce the burden of disability associated with chronic pain.
Raising awareness of the impact of chronic pain on individuals will also play a role in increasing understanding among the larger community, which can result in action and change. It is only through sharing stories and promoting conversations that we will shed light on this largely invisible condition.