Press Release - Opening doors on disability day

Date posted: 
3 December 2014

3 December is the International Day of People with Disability.  It’s a United Nations day celebrated right around the world and this year’s theme of “the promise of technology” is a reminder of the power of information in the lives of people with a disability.

Nican is one service opening doors for people with disability by providing access to recreation and operating a unique national concession card scheme. 

Nican provides people with disability anywhere in Australia with information on sport, recreation, the arts, tourism and travel. The service is available online and via a toll-free 1800 number.  The service launched by the late Mrs Hazel Hawke in 1988 has grown with the times and can now be access via smartphone for people needing support on the run. 

While many of us now get our information online, Nican also caters to a large group of people who find the internet difficult through a direct 1800 toll-free hotline. 

Callers on any given day can include people who are older, who are blind, people in remote Australia, War Veterans and Legatee’s.  The service is also increasingly being used by personal planners and support coordinators under the National Disability Insurance Scheme which is rolling out in seven trial sites across Australia. 

On top of the information service funded by the Australian Government, Nican administers a concession card which provides a 50% discount to over 1,000 Australians who are sick, elderly, have disabilities and need a carer to manage on domestic flights.

Executive Director of Nican, Suzanne Bain-Donohue said “Just recently we heard from one of our regular users, Skymed Aeromedical, how the Nican card had enabled a frail Catholic Nun in her 90’s with no living relatives to travel with a carer to reconnect with the surviving members of her religious order.  We also heard how the card helped a man who suffered catastrophic injuries while on holiday transfer from Perth to Melbourne to reunite with his family and enter nursing care, while avoiding the $25,000 cost of a private charter”. 

As we approach the holiday season it’s important to remember the challenges that people with disability can face with travel. Support like this keeps people independent and gets them home for Christmas. 

Nican is anxiously awaiting news about the future of our funding under the DSS New Way of Working with Grants process set to be announced by the end of December. 

Without additional funding information services for people with disability are set to cease after 26 years of operation in February 2015. 

Nican is available via or 1800 806 769.  User case studies follow.

Media enquiries - Craig Wallace, Marketing and Project Manager on 0451 199 750

Case Study 1:


Sean Fitzgerald is a well known Canberra man who became a high level quadriplegic in 2000 as the result of a mountain bike accident. Sean is an active volunteer, entrepreneur and advocate focused on accessible technology who was the ACT’s Australia Day Ambassador in 2013 during the Canberra Centenary.

Sean says that information services provided by Nican have helped him retain independence and travel for essential medical, family and other reasons. 

“It’s hard to know what you need when travelling with a disability and even harder to know what facilities are available at specific locations so its great to have a reliable place to start information gathering.

“Not having the right information can mean having to beg, borrow and steal on the spot.  The general website allows you to get information where you are – such as when travelling to Brisbane – and find out what shower, chairs, commodes and other equipment is available. 

Sean says that information like this is “absolutely not available in the mainstream.  Other sites might make a very general attempt at telling whether a hotel room is accessible or not but there is no way to tell whether the hotel room is accessible or not.  Some of the issues are specialised, for instance I’ve only once struck a hotel where the bed was at a height you could put a hoist under. 

If the information wasn’t there you’d literally be flying by the seat of your pants.  For someone with my level of disability this means potentially putting yourself at real risk because you are caught out without an essential equipment or service.   The fall-back might be having to go to hospital to get something done in a remote or unfamiliar location.  These things can become life threatening very quickly.  We’ve been places where the claim was equipment was going to be suitable and that was just the opinion of the provider. 

On the Nican card Sean says “I was booking flights and Qantas recommended I come to Nican and get the card.   An extra discount for Business class is better because I get lifted directly into the seat.  More room means that a carer can get past my legs and help adjust in that set space. 

“If I had to get on a plane without a carer because I couldn’t afford one, it would be a shambles.   I could easily get injured, tear skin or acquire a pressure sore.  Pressure sores kill people.  The airline staff would probably just say no which would leave me stranded. 

“The discount means I travel.   I travel for medical reasons from Canberra to Northshore.

“Unless someone else is paying, I just wouldn’t go without the discount.   I travel for all sorts of reasons: business, committee work, paid work, and recreation.  I’ve also travelled from Canberra to Darwin for a family funeral.  The everyday reasons that people travel are the reasons that I travel”.

Sean can be contacted on 02 6223 2082 or [email protected]

Case Study 2: 


Skymed Aeromedical provides an air ambulance and patient transport solution around Australia and internationally. 

They utilise the Nican Carer Concession Card to enable affordable medical air escort on a commercial airline to people with serious disabilities, illnesses and life threatening conditions.

As Robyn Hickey explains “We use the Nican Qantas Card to transfer people who have severe disabilities and are very unwell and can’t travel without a person with them. 

“These transfers include people flying for medical appointments or back to their family. Some of our clients don’t have a lot of money.  Without the Nican Card organisations like Legacy could also be exposed to the extra costs. 

“If these people didn’t have carers on a plane they wouldn’t travel or they might be injured as a result of people without training trying to move them.

“If the Nican card were not available in some cases we would not be able to do the move. 

“For instance we took a lady with rapidly deteriorating cancer to her grand-daughters christening.

“We took a Nun in her 90’s with no family who needed to be reunited with the surviving nuns in her congregation.  These were the last Sisters in that order and the only people who could look after her. 

“We took a man with a disability who had suffered a catastrophic injury while on holiday back to his family for transfer to Nursing Care.  The alternative to using a commercial airline for this complicated transfer would have been a $25,000 private charter.”

“The Nican card gives us a way to negotiate with the airline on the travel needs of very vulnerable people. For example the Nican card offers extra discounts for Business Class – a seat here can be important in transporting people who need extra space and privacy.  It’s a great service.”

Contact:  Robyn Hickey, Clinical Manager SKYMED  Aeromedical Pty. Ltd.

T: 1300 759 633 F: 61 2 8072 1876 M:  0414 543 075:+61 414 543 075

E: [email protected]


Case Study 3:


Christmas is traditionally a time for family for Michael and Denise. However, as their children have grown-up and spread to all corners of the country, Michael and Denise have to travel each year to keep up the tradition.

While many of us think little of travelling by air to our holiday destinations, things aren’t so simple for Denise, as she has a range of health issues complicated by Alzheimers. Michael, her husband, is also her carer.

Michael was very pleasantly surprised to find out about the Nican Carer Concession Card a couple of years ago.

“My wife and I have made the conscious decision to travel business class whenever we go by air, principally as the stress factor generated by Alzheimers, is reduced exponentially”, he said.

“With children now in Adelaide, Perth and Darwin this decision has proven well worth it.”

Michael also appreciated being able to speak to someone who could explain the card to him clearly. Now all his family are aware that their mother has the card and how it can make travelling for her much easier.

“Our children are very well aware of it should they ever be in the situation of accompanying their mother, and we may very well be able to sneak in a future Christmas… Denise’s Alzheimers notwithstanding.”

“As my wife’s primary carer, the Nican Carer Concession Card represents to me a very mature approach to recognising that there are people who do ‘need a hand’, above and beyond that which could be reasonably expected from cabin crew”, Michael said.

Michael Doyle.

[m] 0427066293