She's passionate about making a difference in other disabled people's lives.
Patsy grabs her caffeine fix at one of Otago University’s Cafés. It’s her old hangout and where her passion for helping people started.
“When I developed a muscle disorder in my mid-thirties, I got involved with disability advocacy at the university. My whole focus changed. I wanted to do something that would be of benefit to people,” she says.
Originally studying information science, Patsy switched to social work and began working at AccessAbility. Starting as a receptionist, she progressed to the role of Service Facilitator on the children and young persons team, finding inspiration among her clients to change her own disability support for the better.
“I’d been working with people who had Individualised Funding (IF) and I saw what they could do. I was having trouble getting support staff from different agencies so I decided to start IF in 2011,” she says.
Patsy says that the switch has made a huge difference to the quality of her life. She now manages every aspect of her support, from employing people to paying their wages.
“People’s disability needs aren’t just household management and personal care. I can now choose to have support, as I need it. I also know who is coming through the door each day,” she says.
IF is just one of the advances in the disability sector that Patsy has seen.
She was the head of the ‘Wheelchair Mafia’ – a Disability Action Group at the university, nicknamed after protests to make student activities more accessible in 2000.
She has also held the roles of secretary, treasurer and president of the Disabled Persons’ Assembly. As president she successfully pushed for a public enquiry into the accessibility of New Zealand buses and trains and made curbings more of a council priority in Dunedin.
With all of her experience, Patsy now hopes to make a difference to the lives of disabled people in Wellington. She is making the move to be closer to her daughter and two grandsons.
“I’m just taking the move one step at a time. There are any number of possibilities for me in Wellington and I’m looking forward to what the future might hold,” she says.
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