The Australian Government officially launched the national Companion Card scheme around six weeks ago.
The Companion Card enables some people with disabilities to participate at venues and activities without incurring the cost of a second ticket for a carer. If a PWD requires an attendant in order to participate in the event or access the location, the ticket for their companion is free. Before the scheme came into being, people who had service animals could legally take them anywhere without extra payment, but people who had human carers had to pay extra. How did that make sense?
Who can qualify for a Companion Card? In my state (definitions are very similar state to state), the care-needs eligibility definition is:
Attendant care support includes significant assistance with mobility, communication, self-care, or learning, planning and thinking, where the use of aids, equipment or alternative strategies do not enable the person to carry out these tasks. It does not include providing only reassurance, social company or encouragement.
The definition also requires that the need for support be considered life-long, though the rationale behind this is not explained. There is no income test.
There is an additional note to participating businesses warning them not to use this as an excuse for poor accessibility:
The Companion Card was not developed to overcome or compensate for any particular venue’s lack of accessibility; including the absence of ramps, lifts, accessible toilets, appropriate signage or captioning, etc. Responsibility for these access issues remains with venue and activity operators.
There are currently 2700 affiliate organisations participating in the National Companion Card. So far the participants include the Melbourne public transport system, major sporting leagues and venues, various cinemas, Circus OZ, Fitness First Australia, Circus Royale, The Australian Ballet, Musica Viva, The Australian Rugby Union, and many smaller sporting and cultural venues and organisations.
This is a terrific idea, and one that needs to be adopted in more countries. It would also be good if Australian extends the scheme to temporary passes for tourists in the future; right now, you need to be a resident.
What’s the situation where you are? If you need human assistance in order to participate in the life of your community, do you need to fork out cash for an extra ticket?