A Warrnambool hairdresser has welcomed a new campaign that is raising awareness about the barriers preventing people with disabilities from getting jobs.
Lisa Hartwich runs her business LS Hair Designs from her Warrnambool home. She is in a manual wheelchair after suffering nerve damage to her back about four years ago.
She said after completing her Certificate II and III in Hairdressing in Hamilton and Warrnambool, she intended to enter the workforce immediately.
"But suddenly I ended up in the chair," she said.
"It was all a bit of a whirlwind trying to get my head around the fact I was no longer fully independent.
"I suffered really bad anxiety and for me, the biggest hurdle was losing all of my confidence. I find people can treat you differently because you're in a chair and they tend to look at the person's disability rather than the person themselves.
Some people say 'you shouldn't be able to do this' and I'm just like 'well I can do this'. I can push myself to do this and there's actually nothing stopping me.Lisa Hartwich
"Some people say 'you shouldn't be able to do this' and I'm just like 'well I can do this'. I can push myself to do this and there's actually nothing stopping me."
Paralympic gold medallist and multiple grand slam tennis champion Dylan Alcott last month launched the Remove the Barrier campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the invisible barriers such as unconscious bias and discrimination in the workplace.
Unconscious bias, as Mr Alcott puts it, is a lack of expectation, negative perception and an assumption that people with a disability are broken, less capable and unemployable because of their disability.
"It's not fair, but more importantly, it's not true," he told Triple J's Hack.
Ms Hartwich said she hoped the campaign would inspire more people to enter the workforce.
"People shouldn't hold themselves back or give up on life because of their disability," she said.
"Being back in the work force has helped me to gain back the confidence that I lost when I ended up in the chair. I felt like a piece of me was taken away but now I'm back doing what I really enjoy again.
"I'm proof that you can do anything that you want to. It's important to break down those barriers so that anyone can pursue their dreams. Being in a chair won't stop me from doing what I love."
You can find LS Hair Designs on Facebook.
Dylan Alcott will be speaking at the Lighthouse Theatre in Warrnambool on Tuesday, October 8.
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