The WA Disability Support Awards recognises individuals who go above and beyond ordinary standards to make a difference to the lives of others. Nominations come from parents.
The annual event which takes place in June usually involves a gala dinner, but this year with COVID-19, announcements took place via Facebook.
Everyone appreciates acknowledgement of effort they’ve put into their work. As an organisation we were thrilled to learn that VisAbility was in the running for awards again this year.
Congratulations to Monique
Speech Pathologist Monique Ziegelaar, was nominated for Excellence in Innovation and Excellence in Leadership for the ‘How I Learn’ project. VisAbility also received a nomination for Excellence in Advocacy and Rights promotion for the team behind its innovation, including Monique, Ryan Honschooten, Sebastian Della Maddalena and Davinia Lefroy.
The announcement for Excellence in Innovation was made by Secretary of the Insurance Commission of Australia, Kane Blackman – the sponsors of the award.
It was a total surprise to hear I was a joint winner. ‘How I Learn’ is unique, it’s an invaluable tool for many young people. We’ve had 1000 people visit the site since its launch in September 2019.Monique Ziegelaar
“People across the globe are scouring the website and in addition we have thirty students with profiles. Students, therapists, parents, and teachers are all making use of ‘How I Learn’.”
Monique’s win secured media coverage in The West Australian where she was interviewed alongside Emily Prior one of the students who trialled the platform.
A great innovation – How I Learn
‘How I Learn’ is a free platform which empowers students to use their voice at secondary schools so they have greater control of how they’re taught. It’s the first time youngsters with disabilities are telling us what they require. They helped with the design and creation of the platform and were comperes at the launch event last year.
‘How I Learn’ is the brainchild of VisAbility Therapy Manager Seb Della Maddaelena. Seb attended a vision impairment conference about education in 2015. While there he listened to an inspiring presentation by a young woman living with blindness and disability. She read Braille notes and as a result was very careful at articulating how she advocated for herself. From that conference the idea of ‘How I Learn’ was born.
I remember thinking such a simple concept but so empowering. Meeting Alice O’Sullivan, a girl with cerebral palsy and cerebral vision impairment, gave us the momentum to make this project a reality.Sebastian Della Maddelena
“From there we managed to receive funding and shortly after that we appointed Monique,’’ outlines Seb.
How I Learn launch
Funding for ‘How I Learn’ came from Non-Government Centre Support for Non-School Organisations. It was launched last year at an event attended by Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Services, Reece Whitby. Two of our younger clients Caitlin Hannen-Williams and Chloe Van Kaschke acted as comperes for the night.
In addition to the award Monique, receives $2000 in cash and VisAbility, as an organisation, receives training vouchers for staff. We were also finalists in the other two categories.
What next for Monique?
The 24-year-old graduated with a first class honours degree in Speech Pathology from Curtin University in 2017. She was a member of the Vice Chancellor’s list three times over – something of a hat trick for Monique. To be on the list you have to be in the top 1% of students in your cohort each semester.
Monique says she loves anything to do with neuroscience, claiming above all it’s the nuts and bolts behind the way we speak and the language we use.
“It’s at the centre of conversing, learning, informing and sharing, so that as human beings we can think, do and be anything.’’
Outside of work, Monique is a champion ultimate frisbee thrower playing for WA at a competitive level. To sum up she’s a self–confessed adrenalin junkie, listing snowboarding and skiing among her loves. She enjoys open water swimming, took part in the Rottnest Channel Swim this year an now has her sights set on a triathlon.
“I enjoy fitness, am always up for a challenge and having fun, so a triathlon’s ideal for all three.’’
Perfectly said Monique – and with three award nominations this year it seems that three is your magic number.