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Shining a light on disability

Lived Experience Educator Chris Magdas shares her story at the 2024 Patient and Family Experience Symposium.

Woman sitting outside in the sunlight
SydneyConnect Image: Chris

Lived Experience Educator Chris Magdas has a passion and strength for advocacy and educating people about the realities of living with a disability.

“How I’m bridging the gap is by sharing my reality,” she said. “My disability doesn’t define me. What defines me is how I deal with the challenges faced by my disability. 

“This disability has built my character and forged the person I am today.”

Chris has muscular dystrophy and is wheelchair bound – a visible disability.

After completing her university degree, Chris experienced discrimination and initially felt disappointment in the lack of opportunities.

“I came into the role on the back of many failed attempts at employment,” she said.

“Despite being a qualified social worker, as soon as I disclosed my disability, the tone changed, and rejection followed.”

The Lived Experience Educator Program at Sydney Education was the opportunity she needed, and she has loved it so far. 

“I’ve learnt so much, about purposeful storytelling and being intentional with my personal stories,” she said.

Chris felt called to use her passion, knowledge, and skills to raise awareness and advocate for the needs of people with a disability and for more inclusive health care practices, not only in her role but in her personal life.

“I’ve been in the healthcare system my whole life, so I know a lot about it. I’ve had several negative experiences, which have taught me to fight for myself and for better care.

“I would tell others to learn as much as you can about your rights and about what you deserve and fight for it.

“If you don’t have it in you to fight for yourself, find someone who will fight for you, because life is a lot better when you’re living it to the fullest.”

Chris joined fellow Educators Daniel Wallekers and Luba Horder to share their experiences at this year’s Patient and Family Experience Symposium at Sydney Innovation Week 2024.

Graeme Slade, Lived Experience Educator Program Manager, is proud of his staff and the wealth of knowledge they bring, and spoke highly of their enthusiasm.

“We have a group of dedicated and passionate educators from a spread of all ages and diverse professional backgrounds. They are patients, advocates, consumers, carers, with both visible and invisible disabilities,” he said.

“They are all willing to work with staff to share the patient care message.”

The Symposium is an opportunity to bring together staff, patients and their families from across Sydney Local Health District services to share their stories and experiences.

Facilitated by proud disability advocate, writer, editor and actress, Hannah Diviney, the symposium explored the perspectives and experiences of people with a disability within the healthcare system.