MJD Foundation

News-Aircraft Wheelchair Lift launch

Simone McGrath and Warren Lalara










MJD Foundation's Simone McGrath and Warren Lalara
demonstrate the Aircraft Wheelchair Lift. 

A small grant travels a long way

June 8th, 2010

With the support of the Federal Government, the Machado Joseph Disease Foundation (MJDF) today launched new aircraft wheelchair lifts at Vincent Aviation, Darwin International Airport.

The purchase of the lifts has been a priority for the organisation since it was set up in May 2008 to provide a better quality of life for sufferers of MJD and their families in Arnhem Land and beyond.

"This is a very proud moment for us and it sends a powerful message of how a relatively small amount of money can have a huge impact on people's lives," MJDF Executive Officer, Ms Nadia Lindop, said.

Aircraft Wheelchair Lift launch










MJD Foundation Board members with Vincent Aviation's
Claud Freeman, Senator Trish Crossin, and Perkins
Shipping's Fiona Goulding.



ABC RadioListen to our ABC Radio Interview here

"Just a couple of weeks ago our employees and volunteers struggled to carry, literally drag, a highly disabled MJD client up and down the stairs of an aircraft in torrential rain, so she could visit Queensland for a respite trip.

"That's the contrast to having these wheelchair lifts. No-one travelling to and from Groote Eylandt has to go through that kind of indignity again. These lifts will make an enormous difference," Ms Lindop said.

MJDF Chairperson, Libby Massey, said their introduction comes at a time when some airlines are operating in the region with an exemption under Section 55 of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act that means they can refuse to allow people with wheelchairs to travel on their flights.

"If you live on Elcho Island there is only one regular passenger transport (RPT) service and the airline that runs it has an exemption. So people with wheelchairs can't travel. Their only choice is to use charter planes and that means it costs literally thousands of dollars to leave the island."

Ms Lindop said MJDF was happy the lifts will be used by Vincent Aviation as they have donated all costs involved in flying MJDF clients since 2008. "Groote is very lucky with Vincent Aviation. They have been very supportive of the Foundation and have exhibited strong values regarding the fair and non-discriminatory treatment of people living with disability.

"Although MJDF own the new lifts, Vincent Aviation will meet insurance costs and are training their staff to operate and maintain the equipment. We are very pleased to be able to partner with them on this project."

One person who is thrilled at finally having the facilities is MJDF Vice Chairperson, Gayangwa Lalara. "I am so happy that this lift is here," she said. "It's so hard to help my niece or sister on and off the plane now, and I am pleased that people are helping us."

The project attracted generous support from all parties involved including the Federal Government; Tasmanian manufacturers, Airport Maintenance Services who donated their time and labour to fly to Darwin to install the lifts and train Vincent Aviation staff; Perkins Shipping who convinced the Toll Group and NXQ Shipping to freight the two large lifts to Darwin and Groote free of charge; Gilbert + Tobin for drafting the necessary contracts; and Keren Shanley's family for donating the aisle wheelchairs in memory of her grandfather.

"Basically, I think we were able to make an emotional connection with people within these companies who supported us.

"Once they saw photographs of how wheelchair bound clients were being transferred onto aircraft, they knew how important these lifts are.
"It's about the dignity and quality of life, something everyone is entitled to."