Leaving a companion behind

Summary 
I love going out. I love movies, nightclubs and concerts. The Companion Card has been great for me. The card lets some people with a disability get a free entry ticket for a companion. I used to split the cost of tickets with my friends. The card saved us a lot of money. It let me have a good social life. But I have decided not to get a new card. I want to be more independent. I have learned new skills. I think there are other people with a disability who need the card more than me.
Posted by: 
Jarrod Marrinon on 15/08/2011
Two friends (a young man and woman) standing at a bar
2 friends (1M & 1F) at a bar

I love going out with friends.

I love going out with friends to movies, nightclubs and concerts. Ever since the Companion Card was introduced I have used it with family and friends. It is issued to people with a significant, permanent disability. Applicants need to demonstrate they are unable to access most community activities and venues without attendant care support. Many organisations now accept the card. The card enables companions to receive a free ticket.

I think the Companion Card allows people with a disability to have a more regular and exciting social life. It also helps reduce the cost of travel. The Companion Card has been great for me.

Big savings

The Companion Card has saved my friends and I lots of money. We had a system where we would equally split the price of tickets. This way we both benefited. It allowed me to see lots of concerts and attend events with friends.

Of course, tickets can still be expensive, even at half price. A favourite DJ of mine was selling tickets for $150 each. I took a friend and the cost was more manageable at $75 each. It was a large saving because of the Companion Card.

A dilemma

Now I am facing a dilemma. In an effort to be more independent I have decided not to renew my Companion Card. As I have got older I have taught myself new tricks to make myself as independent as possible. For example, I have figured out how to open doors with my electric wheelchair foot plate. I can also safely hold drinks between my legs. I have even found a way to pick things up with my glasses frame! (Please don't try these tricks at home!)

Saving money is great. After all, I am not getting rich from my disability support pension! But I have made a commitment to be more independent. This commitment means I am going to have to get used to paying full price for concerts and travel. It is going to be a challenge.

Sometimes I worry that my friends might no longer be as likely to go out with me. I am no longer the cost-effective option!

Others in need

But I have started to feel guilty for using my disability as a way to save money. I feel I don't really need a companion. I feel like there are other people with a disability who are less independent than I am. I worry that I am depriving them of the benefits I once received from my Companion Card. That is the reason why I no longer use the card.

 

Do you use the Companion Card? Do you think the card should be available to more people? Or is it too easy to get a card? Let us know in the comments section below.

Readers comments (12)

I don't see the Companion Card so much as a demonstration of independence, but a program to assist those with disabilities overcome the countless obstacles of being included in many activities.
The Companion card program wasn't designed to make it cheaper to go out, but to provide equal opportunities for those with disabilities. It does this by allowing the support you need without having to pay extra. Being able to take someone with you is more about safety. And unfamiliar areas can be a safety hazard for many.
Most places accept the Companion Card as it covers their own commitment to the laws of Equal Opportunities. It also further assures the health and safety of their patrons. In other words it is an insurance security blanket.
The Companion card is not easy to come by. You really have to show that you are in need of that support.

I agree with Kate Giles, the Companion card is to encourage independence, certainly not dependence. As many people with a disability suffer from isolation and depression the companion card assists in encouraging disabled people to leave the safety of their home and experience a variety of things at different venues, and possibly using public transport. This improves independence and self esteem.
Companion cards are not easy to get, therefore you have been assessed as to being eligible to receive one. Whilst it is great that you are able to retrieve things with your glasses case, your safety is at risk, so it is wonderful to be able to take a friend/family member with you to assist you with the activities which are difficult for you. To me it is a' win-win situation'.

I don't think you should feel guilty about using the card. If you qualify, you obviously need it. It's not fair to put yourself at risk when going out in the name of trying to be independent. Unfortunately there are still too many venues that are not truly accessible. Also, you are not depriving others of the card by having one.

From the mid 90s I went to a many shows at pubs and concerts. This was in the days before the companion card (which was introduced about 2005?). For everything I wanted to go to, I just bought two tickets. That way I got past friends' dithering about whether or not they would attend (before tickets sold out!). It guarantee me a spot and my friend's companionship rather than being by myself. Sometimes they didn't pay me, sometimes they did, and sometimes they did through refreshments or staying at their house. For me, Companion cards have been a great thing, saving me a lot of money. Nonetheless, I would still go to the gigs even if I still had to pay for another ticket and I'm on DSP too.

I think it is crazy for you to not use the card. You obviously deserve it and like Kermit says you are not preventing others from getting the card and funds are set aside for this with good reason. It is doubtful that the money will go to other areas of disability support. If you feel strongly about not using the card to get cheap tickets, then don't. Fair enough if your independence is your goal, but there is nothing wrong with paying the full price and giving the spare ticket to a friend helping you out on occasion if the need arises.

I agree with all comments above. I do not think you should feel guilty and I think you should apply for another one when that time comes up. It is difficult to qualify for one, you really have to need it. Not applying for one I think would not mean that someone elsewould get it. You can still be independent and use the card. Don't feel bad please. Maureen

I used to think that using taxis meant that I was being dependent. Then I realised something. I am being independent every time I go out of my house. Taxis assist me to get to my destination only. Taxis and companion cards help the community include us. What is your goal? Do you want to be isolated when you go out? Or do you want to have a good time with your friends? The companion card enables you to be included.

A companion card does not take away independence as it is optional to acquire so one has the independence to decide not to get it and should not complain about it because I feel, that denies the responsibility that comes with choice.

It is designed with equal opportunity in place and to keep people independent as how hard would it be for people to go anywhere at all if they had to pay double? That is also unfair. A carer legally does not count as a second person I believe. I know it is annoying having someone tag along even a professional when you have a disability as there is still someone 'in your face' and you are not totally free but maybe that is ironically some sort of freedom and better than being home and never getting out as it is that way for some.

If you have a companion card you can still choose when you want to use it and when you do not. You are not bound to it. You can still go out on your own if you are able to risk it or manage it. The best thing is though, to be safe and to consider your needs.

Being able to choose is the limelight of independence. That is what is so liberating about independence.

I can see both sides of this. Some people are saying that anyone who qualifies for the card must need it, but I'm guessing that as with many things, it's not always quite as simple as that. I think it's great that Jarrod has found there are many places he is able to go to on his own successfully!

On the other hand however, there would be nothing wrong with having the card, and choosing when, where and if, to use it; in other words, having it as a back-up. Simply having the card isn't costing any money or preventing anyone else from getting help.

Also, in regard to using the card,I think no-one should feel obliged to avoid activities they would enjoy just because it would mean the government paying for a companion (who could be a friend who might be very pleased with the arrangement!) Using resources doesn't always mean less left for other people: in fact it can work the opposite way, since use of resources can have a positive influence as to how much funds the government allocates to these programs!

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Another comment: I'm guessing there are still many places in Melbourne that you wouldn't be able to access alone but might be able to with the assistance of another person.... even if they might be places you don't often go, or have never yet gone. The companion card is simply a way of getting around the problem of inaccessibility (and as others have said, doesn't need to be seen as a statement about dependence or lack of ability!)

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