Going to gigs, catching up with friends, accessing events, getting out and about – this is what being part of a community is all about. It’s what so many of us need and, to a degree, take for granted.
People with a physical or cognitive disability, however, can find the seemingly simple task of catching a train challenging, not to mention seeing their favourite band live.
A recent Productivity Commission report found decreasing levels of community participation among people with a disability in Australia. The report compared data between 2009 to 2018.
Nationally, for people with disability aged 15–64 years, the proportion who had face‑to‑face contact with family or friends who don’t live in their household decreased by around 9 percentage points to 67.6% in 2018. (See graph below for state by state breakdown)
The proportion who reported the main reason for not leaving home as often as they would like due to their disability or condition increased from 12.7 per cent in 2009 to 16.3 per cent in 2018.
How can this be changed?
One way is to make sure that people are aware of particular travel passes and programs that people with a disability can sign up for. In this blog, we’ll be taking a look at two of them: the Companion Card and the Access Travel Pass.
Together, these cards make it easier to navigate public transport and join in events and attend venues.
What are they? Who’s eligible? How do you apply? Let’s get stuck in.
What is a Companion Card?
The Companion Card is a national program aimed at people with a permanent and significant disability who need a carer with them when they go to particular activities. The cardholder’s support person is allowed free entry into participating events and venues.
The card is the size of a credit card with the name and photo of the person with the disability. When the cardholder goes to a participating event or venue and purchases a ticket, their carer will be granted free entry.
Companion Card Eligibility
Anybody with a permanent and significant disability is eligible. It’s not means tested; once you have the card, you have it for life. To successfully apply, you must:
- Be an Australian citizen.
- Demonstrate that your disability means you can’t participate in community events without carer support.
- Demonstrate that non-human support (aids or other technologies) isn’t adequate.
- Demonstrate that the disability is lifelong.
How do I apply?
You can apply online or by hard copy. You’ll need two passport-sized photos printed on glossy paper and signed on the back by your health professional. You will also need documentation from your health professional verifying your disability, its significance and its permanence.
Your Companion Card application will take at least six weeks to be assessed.
Who can be a companion?
Your companion can be anyone you choose – family member, friend, support worker – as long as they are old enough to provide the necessary support.
You can also choose your companion based on the event you’re going to; it doesn’t have to be the same person each time.
What is an Access Travel Pass?
The Access Travel Pass is a myki card that gives free access to public transport in Victoria. That includes:
- Trams, trains and buses in Melbourne.
- V/Line services.
- Regional bus services.
- All services operated by PTV (Public Transport Victoria).
This pass is sent out with a lanyard to make it easier to carry around. It doesn’t need to be tapped on or off; you simply need to have it with you so you can show it to any public transport staff.
Access Travel Pass Eligibility
You can get an Access Travel Pass if:
- You have a permanent physical or cognitive disability, or a mental illness, but can still travel independently.
- Find touching on and off with your myki card consistently confusing or difficult to do due to your physical disability.
- You are a Victorian resident.
If you need a companion to travel, then this card isn’t for you; it’s only for those who can travel independently.
How do I apply?
Fill out this form and attach a verified, passport-sized photo of yourself. Your health professional will need to fill out section 4.
Hang on – isn’t Myki being replaced?
Yes, a new operator is set to take over the Myki system and perform a complete overhaul at the end of 2023. The new system, to be run by US-based company Conduent, will take around two years to implement, with trials beginning early next year.
What does this mean for the Access Travel Pass? No details have yet been released about the new system, but we’re confident it will have a ticketing option equivalent to the Access Travel Pass. As more details emerge, we’ll be sure to keep you updated.
For now, though, the Access Travel Pass is fully functional under the Myki ticketing system.
Sunrise2Sunrise can help with your applications
The Companion Card and the Access Travel Pass give people with disabilities far greater access to our community and our regions. The application processes, though, can be confusing and complex.
If you need help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Sunrise2Sunrise; we’re here to help, and we have all the expertise and experience to get your application process underway.
We can guide you through the entire process and help you navigate any obstacles that may pop up along the way.