Quadriplegic mum continues her adventures thanks to NDIS funds


After an accident left self-confessed adventurer Joanna Fowler with a spinal cord injury, the Brisbane mum-of-two is using her National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding to continue exploring.

Joanna says she refuses to let life as a quadriplegic stop her from continuing to live life on her terms. 

“It is what it is. There’s no use feeling sorry for yourself,” she says.

Joanna, who uses a chin control to manoeuvre her power wheelchair, says she made sure being able to explore places was one of her NDIS goals.

“In my NDIS plan I’m funded for 28 days of short-term accommodation a year, and I can use it flexibly as a block of up to 14 days at a time, or for one weekend a month,” Joanna explains.

“If you’ve got Core budget funding, you can also use it for short-term accommodation.”

Joanna says heading to the beach or the bush is a great way to recharge her mind and body.

“I just love it. It gives me a chance to recharge and it gives my husband Michael a break. Our son, Connor, still lives at home so the boys get the house to themselves. It means they don’t have to put up with my carers constantly coming in and out of the house,” she explains. 

Joanna also creates informative videos of her adventures and posts them on Facebook to help others learn about accessible destinations.

Stradbroke Island, 30 kilometres southeast of Brisbane, is one of her top recommendations, which is easily accessible by public transport. 

“Before my spinal cord injury, I thought the only way to get to Stradbroke Island was by car ferry, but prior to my injury I was a teacher, and I remembered a student saying I should try catching the water taxi and island bus for day trips because it was much cheaper,”Joanna explains. 

“So I decided to give it a go. I caught the train to the end of the Cleveland line, waited for the 258 bus, and it dropped me off at the Stradbroke Ferries water taxi terminal.

“The water taxi is really accessible. Staff are friendly and helpful, and if it’s not busy, I can head to the back of the boat and sit outside.

“It docks at Dunwich, where it connects with the Hop On, Hope Off island bus, which takes you to Point Lookout – the top point of Stradbroke Island.”

Joanna says a trip to the island feels like she’s heading overseas. 

“Every time I leave on the water taxi, I take a long breath of sea air and then let it out slowly. I feel so relaxed, and I find I’m in a much happier place.”

Joanna is also funded for Freedom Trax – a powered-track device she can attach to her manual wheelchair. It allows her to trek through sand, snow and gravel.

“My daughter, Danielle, is getting married on the beach so it means I can actually go,” she adds.

Joanna, originally from the United Kingdom (UK), brought her family out to Australia 10 years ago to follow her dream of living ‘Down Under’. She was injured three years later.

“I’m fortunate I live here now. We wouldn’t have had this kind of (disability) support in the UK, but I think the biggest thing the NDIS has given me is the opportunities for short stays away,” she says.

“When I’ve got a few weeks of stability in my life, I can put it through my plan manager and go away for a weekend. It means I come back refreshed and ready to tackle life again and for that I’m grateful.”