Spotlight - What Ability
Our Community Spotlight this month is with our friends at What Ability who are continually bringing happiness to people living with a disability.
Firstly, tell us about What Ability and the services it offers?
What Ability is an NDIS registered disability support service that puts fun first and supports all abilities and all ages through community access. We focus on providing fun experiences for our participants through day programs and overnight camps. We put happiness first with support workers across Australia, some of whom are semi-professional and professional athletes. We believe when happiness comes first, you unlock your potential!
Steve, tell us more about your background and how did your work lead you to creating your own disability support business?
During my time as a footy player, I worked on weekends supporting kids with a disability; taking them surfing, swimming and bushwalking. After medically retiring from the NRL in 2019, I knew I wanted to keep creating a positive impact, so I started helping those kids full time and recruiting other athletes. That was the start of What Ability.
My background in football and support work with other athletes showed me first-hand the positive benefits of athletes as support workers for both the athletes and kids. This motivated me to build a community of peers, connect with children and adults living with disabilities and break down the barriers of what is possible for them. We believe athletes have the power to change the world and in turn, the disability sector. I hope to dismiss the perception of how athletes spend their time away from their sport.
What codes do you support and tell us about the ambassadors you have working at What Ability?
Since starting What Ability, we have supported and recruited semi-professional and professional athletes from a range of different sports. Not only do our athletes raise visibility of the career of a support worker, but help breakdown existing social barriers and stigmas.
Our ambassadors form genuine connections with our participants and are key pillars of our What Ability community. Whether it's taking a participant out on a daily adventure or attending our all-ability clinics, our ambassadors are passionate about what they do.
We currently have athlete ambassadors in NSW, QLD and WA, some of which include Tom Trobojevic (Manly Sea Eagles), Maddy Proud (Swifts), Lauren Cheatle (Sydney Sixers) Angus Bell (Wallabies), Jaime Chapman (NRL Brisbane Broncos) and Heath Chapman (Fremantle Dockers).
Where does What Ability run and how can families get involved?
We are currently operating in Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth, and are preparing for our launch in Melbourne later in the year. Families, participants and support workers can get involved by contacting our support team at firstname.lastname@example.org, 02 9719 9014 or checking out our smiles on socials @whatability.
What are some of the goals families and children have when they join What Ability?
The ultimate goal for both our families and support workers is the happiness of our participants. If they’re smiling, we’re doing our job right. When a participant comes home from a day out and they're happy, that is the ultimate outcome for parents.
Whilst some participants can’t talk, read or write, they can run, jump and play. Fun is for everyone! Whether it's swimming, surfing, picnics, jet skiing or a coffee outing, our experiences bring smiles whilst also giving their parents respite.
What are your aspirations for What Ability? What’s next?
The ultimate vision of What Ability is to build an inclusive Australia. We want to continue to change the disability sector and keep recruiting athletes to help us achieve this. Athletes have the power to change the world. We see more athletes joining What Ability to break down the stigma of disabilities and help more families.
At the recent What Ability Foundation NSWRL All Abilities Day, Steve led calls for a special All Abilities round in the NRL competition in 2023. Showcasing inclusivity on a national scale in the country's most popular sport would assist in What Ability's overarching goal; to break down barriers, eradicate existing stigmas and build an inclusive Australia.
Steve will continue to advocate for this at the upcoming QRL All Abilities Day at Broncos HQ on August 20th. A day supported by Harvey Norman and Tyrepower, including access to the Brisbane Broncos HQ field and the chance to play alongside some local athletes including Broncos NRL players. If you’re living with a disability and want to join in the fun, head to https://whatabilityfoundation.org.au/qrl-all-abilities-day/ to register your interest.
We’re currently supporting families across Australia thanks to the support of our major partners Harvey Norman and Tyrepower. We wouldn’t be here without them. We started in Sydney and expanded to both Queensland and Western Australia already this year. We plan to keep growing and our next stop is Melbourne… keep your eyes peeled on our socials soon!
hat has been the most rewarding aspect of WhatAbility?
We exist to bring happiness to people living with a disability. The most rewarding aspect of what we do is seeing the smiles, happiness and laughter that our experiences provide. The genuine bond that our support workers and participants develop is incredible and provides our participants with unforgettable experiences and lifelong friendships. As we continue to build an inclusive Australia, we will continue to put happiness first for all abilities every single day.