NDIS – how does this affect me?
I’ve long wondered what the eligibility criteria of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is for those who are dependent on cochlear implants and hearing aids for their communication needs. At present only pensioners, war veterans and those with a health care card are eligible for the assistance of the Australian Government Hearing Services Program in acquiring hearing aids. If you have private health cover, then the cost of the cochlear device and its implementation is covered. However, if you cannot afford private health then you are at a distinct disadvantage as a member of society. As well, private health provides extremely poor coverage for hearing aids, up to approximately $500 every 5 years, depending on which health fund you are with. If you are not a pensioner or a veteran, you have to bear the cost of hearing aids yourself, even if you are dependent on wearing the device/s in order to maintain employment and enjoy social commitments.
Under the new NDIS, those who meet the criteria for eligibility can apply to receive cochlear implants and hearing aids at no personal cost to themselves. However, the extent of support available to those with cochlear implants is not clear to date. Deaf Services Queensland (DSQ) advises us that mapping services for cochlear implants is not included in this scheme. Mapping remains the responsibility of Queensland Health. To be eligible for the NDIS, the following criteria is applied:
- You must be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or hold a protect special category visa in order to apply.
- You must be under 65 years of age.
- Be living in an area where the scheme has been rolled out.
- Your hearing loss must be a permanent condition and at a level that means dependency on a hearing device in order for your communication needs to be met (DSQ advises this constitutes minimum of 50-40 decibel loss to be eligible).
For Queenslanders living in the south-east corner, how soon you can access this scheme depends on where you live. The Ipswich region will be able to access this scheme from 1 July 2017. Most of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and the Hinterland will receive access from 1 July 2018 onwards. The Sunshine Coast region and Moreton Bay will gain access from 1 January 2019. You MUST apply at 6 months prior to the rollout of the scheme in your area to be considered eligible as a participant.
Unless the fickle winds of political expediency intervene to modify the current agreement for NDIS, all adults under the age of 65 who are dependent on hearing devices for their communication needs are eligible for this scheme. This applies even if you are in full-time employment, which is fantastic news.
The key word for access to supports for a permanent condition is ‘reasonable and necessary’ in getting your communication needs met. This scheme provides funding for appropriate assistive technology to enable eligible participants to meet their communication needs. In applying for access to this scheme, supports for the deaf and hard of hearing can extend beyond hearing aids and cochlear implants to include portable hearing loops, customised door, baby and smoke alarms, and interpreting services at public venues.
It is very interesting to note that while the NDIS website lists access to AUSLAN and interpreters for the signing deaf, they don’t include access to live/pre-recorded captioning services for deaf members of society who do not sign. While access to AUSLAN is fantastic, this only meets the needs of the signing deaf who regularly interact with other signing members of the deaf community. Captioning is a critical need that enables complete access to all the spoken dialogue on TV, in the cinemas, and on the internet for both the signing deaf, oral deaf and hard of hearing members of society. Applying to this scheme can provide a great opportunity for advocacy of live/pre-recorded captioning as an essential support for both the hard of hearing and deaf members of society.