Be a local disability advocate

Tim Alderman is a 41-year-long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS and a disability advocate. Photo: Supplied.

I’m a 41-year-long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS. I’m severely vision-impaired from cytomegalovirus (CMV), and mobility challenged from one of the early drugs designed to prolong our lives.

WORDS Tim Alderman

I used to see HIV disability as a singular issue. Now that I’m 70 years of age, my thinking has turned around. Many of us live with disability as a result of birth, accidents, or health condition such as HIV. Quite often, this world is designed and built by people who don’t have disability. To make things worse, many people think they know what we need…without asking us!

I live in a central coast village in NSW. Footpaths here are a luxury. Residents usually walk on the roads. With a sand base, our grassy verges are a minefield. I’m lucky in that we have several new paths. Although navigating to use them when I walk into the village adds several minutes to my journey.

I also have to cross three busy roads. There is a pedestrian refuge on one, and a crossing on another, but the busiest middle one has no safe crossing. I need to check traffic from four directions, and step onto the road to see around parked vehicles. I’ve had several close calls crossing this road, and I dread crossing it!

In consultation with my local member, who has a disability and uses a wheelchair, we put in a council submission to have some sort of crossing put in there, not just for people with disability, but also to safeguard school kids and the elderly who use that path. Considering our Council is supposedly disability-aware, they are certainly procrastinating. Safety aware indeed! Not!

Likewise the car park and entry access area of our local RSL were badly edge marked, and with a dangerous ramp to the club’s entryway. In bright sunlight, especially coming out of the club into bright sunlight, I could not see the access ramp at all. I relied on friends or kind members to get me safely to the ramp. Submissions from myself and several other vision impaired people saw the whole car park remarked, and the club entryway reconfigured.

It is very empowering when you are listened to, and suggestions are acted on!

I used to be frightened to speak up about these things. However, I know now that if we say nothing, nothing changes. As disabled people, we have a right to be able to move safely around our local areas. Whether able-bodied or disabled, if you know of dangers in your local area, be an advocate and speak up. Small changes can save a life.

Positive Life NSW supports all people living with HIV in NSW. Get in touch on (02) 8357 8386 or

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