2018, marked Independent Living Centre WA’s (ILC) 40th anniversary and many years of long term relationships with supporters, staff and customers. At our celebratory event last December, we were honoured to have present record-breaking Paralympic Swimmer Elizabeth Edmondson.
Elizabeth (69) broke five world records throughout her swimming career and at 14 won three gold medals in the 1964 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, two gold and one silver medal in the 1968 Summer Paralympics in Israel. She was the youngest Paralympic gold medalist for Australia for 48 years.
In 2000, Elizabeth was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in recognition of her work as a swimmer and she was subsequently inducted into the Swimming Western Australia Hall of Fame in 2008. She competed in the 2008 FINA World Masters Championships in Perth and in 2009, was inducted into the Wheelchair Sports WA Hall of Fame. Elizabeth was awarded a Certificate of Commendation in 2012 by Masters Swimming Western Australia for her services to Masters Swimming and in 2018 she became the first inductee into the Swimming WA Hall of Legends.
Today Elizabeth prioritises her advocacy and advisory work in the community as a member of the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (SCGH) Community Advisory Council and the Disability Access and Inclusion Group, the City of Stirling Disability Advisory Group and the newly formed METRONET Access and Inclusion Reference Group.
After contracting polio at 15 months of age, Elizabeth has worked with mobility challenges throughout her life and continues to advocate for better public transport access for people with a disability. One of her favourite ways to improve outdoor conditions for wheelchair users is to report pavement hazards, access problems or overhanging branches to local councils using the Snap Send Solve App, which allows people to easily report repair and maintenance issues to local councils or utility companies.
Elizabeth is a long-time customer of the ILC, having first visited us for assistive equipment advice back in 1986 when she was looking for a pram for her daughter:
“When I was seven months pregnant with my daughter Ruth, I went looking for a specialised pram, I needed one which could assist me with my stability when I was walking.”
In 2008 she organised a grant through the ILC to cover the cost of a wheelchair hoist to go in the back of a new car. More recently, she has tested out reclining chairs on our assistive technology display floor at Nedlands and was able to select one for purchase through the Community Aids and Equipment Program (CAEP) that would suit her needs and fit into the space she had available.
“All I really needed for a true test of the equipment was to
have a cup of tea brought over to me while I sat in the chair, to make it a more
realistic test,” she laughs.
One of Elizabeth’s favourite pieces of assistive equipment is her electric wheelchair, which she has come to rely on more since shoulder surgery several years ago.
“Since I had surgery on my shoulder in 2012, I don’t walk anymore, so it’s great to be able to get around using my Glide Series 4 electric wheelchair.
“I have a bus stop just outside my house and the wheelchair makes travelling to my appointments much easier.”
She also has several smart light bulbs installed:
“I have tried a few brands but I have found the Phillips Hue bulbs to be pretty reliable. It costs about $49 per globe and I have five installed around the home and I can set the time for them to come on in the evening via my smart phone. You can schedule them to turn themselves off at bedtime if you want to.”
At our 40th anniversary celebratory event Elizabeth talked about her long-time association with the ILC on video: https://youtu.be/8k_96N5R1kQ
ILC WA CEO, Steve Glew highlighted the importance of being able to provide assistance for people with changing needs over time: “We are very fortunate to have had a long history with Ms. Edmondson. It is so wonderful to meet returning customers who we have assisted over the years and to hear about how different assistive technology devices have helped them to achieve their goals.”
Read more about Elizabeth’s life and swimming achievements here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Edmondson