Fathema Anwar’s parents thought she was joking when she told them she was moving out of the family home.
The 23-year-old, who came to Australia from Afghanistan as a refugee a decade ago, didn’t have kids and she wasn’t married.
“It is not normal [in] Afghan culture to move out before you are married, especially when you have a disability,” she said.
She and her younger sister live with spinal muscular atrophy.
“Back in Afghanistan my sister and I talked about one day making a chair with wheels and our mum told us to work hard and then we could invent it ourselves,” she said.
“When we arrived in Australia when I was 13 we realised it already existed, so when we got wheelchairs it was like all our dreams came true.”
But a decade on, Fathema dreamed of something more – a place of her own in Sydney.
“We lived in a very small place, and even though our house had been modified, my room was really the only place that was accessible, but it wasn’t close to the bathroom,” she said.
“There wasn’t a lot of room for [my] and my sister’s wheelchairs.”
After some initial research, Fathema was disappointed to find the accessible accommodation prospects for people living with a disability in Australia were still limited, with nursing homes and group settings the most common options.
“I wanted to be independent and take responsibility for myself,” said the university student who is now doing a master’s degree in business marketing.
A new way of living
Recently she started accessing Specialist Disability Accommodation funding in her National Disability Insurance Scheme plan, which made it possible for her to explore a new kind of housing.