Australian of the Year for 2022, Dylan Alcott, and radio star, Angus O’Loughlin, are hosts of the ListenABLE Podcast. The popular show breaks down stereotypes through funny, heartwarming, and honest conversations with people living with disability.

Over the course of their friendship, Angus has learned a lot about disability and inclusion, and the pair continue to be blown away by the inspirational people they meet on the podcast.

We sat down with Dylan and Angus for a quick chat about some of the things they’ve discovered over their journey.

We need to remove the barriers

After recording a radio show several years ago, Dylan and Angus decided to grab a bite to eat. As Angus stepped onto the road preparing to cross, he quickly realised Dylan couldn’t get down the gutter in his wheelchair. As they made their way to the crossing, Angus wondered what other barriers people faced that he – and many others – were oblivious to.

“My eyes were opened to that little example and I began noticing all the roadblocks that Dylan and others with disability encounter every day. It was like the blinkers had been removed.” – Angus

Dylan has been passionate and very vocal about removing barriers and increasing access for everybody. The Dylan Alcott Foundations’ Remove the Barriers campaign raised awareness of the many challenges people with disability face in the workplace, and he continues to use his platform to speak about increasing accessibility.   

“Not all barriers are as obvious as the gutter I couldn’t get down – in fact, most are invisible. The biggest barriers can be that unconscious bias that causes people to get overlooked for jobs or for a promotion because they’re different. We all need to work to change that.” – Dylan 

Listen to people with lived experience

The best people to listen to when it comes to disability are people with disability. That might not sound like a revelation, but it’s something that Dylan and Angus feel is still overlooked in broader society. And the habit of lumping all people with disabilities into the same bucket is another unconscious bias many people with disabilities encounter.  

“Because I’m in a wheelchair, people ask me about other disabilities like autism and expect me to know a lot or speak for others. We need to talk to individual people with disability and share their stories, give them a platform to speak for themselves” – Dylan

ListenABLE is one such platform and over its 50 plus episodes, Dylan and Angus have spoken with a broad spectrum of people living with disabilities. Some famous guests include Carly Findlay, Adam Hills, and actor RJ Mitte (Walt Jnr in Breaking Bad), but interestingly, some of the most popular episodes are the ones with “regular” people.

“It’s always really awesome to see how keen people are to hear and learn from other’s lived experience. Anytime someone contacts me or Dylan to say the podcast has opened their eyes to something or changed the way they view the world is so inspiring, because it means change is coming.” – Angus   

Fun is for everyone

Dylan Alcott’s Ability Fest is Australia’s first completely inclusive, fully accessible music festival. The festival aims to give music lovers a safe space to enjoy themselves, regardless of their access challenges – something that more concert venues could learn from.

“While Ability Fest has accessibility features like pathways, Auslan interpreters, a Sensory Chill Zone and more, the main focus is on having a fun day out. We wanted to create a festival like the other great ones with a killer lineup, but make sure people living with disabilities can have as much fun as their able-bodied mates.” – Dylan

The NDIS is amazing - but there’s work to be done

Interacting with people with disabilities regularly, Dylan and Angus have seen firsthand the amazing work the NDIS can do for people. From paying for the technology to help them get around, to boosting their confidence and getting them out of the house, the Scheme is doing wonderful things. But, Dylan warns, there are still too many people who have a bad experience and that needs to be addressed urgently. 

“When I was a kid I had a wheelchair that was 7 years too big for me – it was huge. You wouldn’t get that these days thanks to the NDIS and that’s a huge improvement, but there’s still a long way to go. The NDIS needs to not just listen to people with disabilities, but actually take it on board and be led by them.

Too much airtime is given to the negative voices and too much focus is put on cutting plan budgets to save money. But if we flip the script and point out that for every dollar spent on the NDIS, $2.25 goes back into the economy, it all of a sudden becomes a good story.”  - Dylan

Change is happening

While there’s still a long way to go, the ListenABLE hosts are hopeful about the future when it comes to increasing accessibility. And with advocates like them on board, we’re feeling optimistic too!

“I recently had a call from an acquaintance who’s a property developer and he asked me ‘how can I make my new building more accessible?’ The fact that people are not only thinking about that, but going deeper than the surface level stuff, is amazing. We’re seeing it with some big retailers and corporates too, so there’s encouraging signs everywhere – and hopefully we see more of it until it becomes the norm.” – Angus