Tony Puhakka will be one of the first Australians to receive funding for air conditioning through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) after the results of a recent appeal.
The Toowoomba Spinal Life member has a spinal cord injury which makes it difficult for him to regulate his body temperature, leaving him susceptible to potentially life-threatening complications.
Mr Puhakka said he was initially denied funding but argued his requirement for air-conditioning was reasonable and necessary due to his disability.
“Words cannot describe how happy I am with the result, not just for me, but what it could mean for others in my position,” Mr Puhakka said.
“There are a lot of people worse off than me who could really use air conditioning funding, especially in such places with extreme heat like North Queensland.”
Spinal Life Australia, who advocated for Mr Puhakka in his appeal, welcomed the result.
Chief Executive Officer Michael Powell said the organisation hoped Mr Puhakka’s win will help lead the way for similar funding allowances in the future.
“Air conditioning is often viewed as a luxury or a non-disability related expense in the eyes of the NDIS,” Mr Powell said.
“But for many people with spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis, air conditioning can help prevent heatstroke, hypothermia, or potentially fatal conditions like autonomic dysreflexia, and is something we believe is worthy of being included in future NDIS plans.”
MS Queensland Director of Services Karen Quaile said the organisation was pleased to hear the National Disability Insurance Agency acknowledge the importance of heating and cooling for people living with progressive neurological diseases and spinal cord injury and hoped this decision was the first of many to come.
“Heat intolerance is a major problem for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) – a small increase of body temperature as low as 0.2oC can cause blurred vision, extreme fatigue, muscle weakness and pain for people with MS,” Ms Quaile said.
“When you have difficulty regulating your body temperature, running air conditioners extensively on hot days and nights is a necessity – not a luxury.”