“My life has opened up. It’s a new world” - how people living with disabilities helped themselves using Change.org

Here at Change.org, our vision is a world where nobody is powerless or voiceless. That’s why we created a tool that helps people to help themselves - like quadriplegic Mark Tonga. It also enables others to help you - like 5-year-old Mikey with cerebral palsy. Discover their stories - and perhaps start a petition of your own, below.

Mark could only leave the house once a week in a taxi - ‘till he logged on to Change.org

Mark Tonga, 41, wanted to pay taxes, to contribute to society - but he couldn’t. He felt isolated, except for one taxi trip a week. 

Mark actually wrote his petition using his mouth - on his iPad using a mouth stick.

Mark wrote his petition using his mouth

Mark wrote his petition using his mouth

On his petition, Mark wrote: “I injured my spinal cord during a rugby union training session, resulting in quadriplegia. I lost the ability to move my arms and legs - I’m totally reliant on my chin control power wheelchair for mobility.”

Despite the NSW taxi prices becoming the most expensive in the country, the state government hadn't increased the Disability Taxi Subsidy since 1999. It restricted Mark to that solitary trip each week. 

mark tonga.jpg

Mark successfully campaigned to double the taxi subsidy using Change.org, which happened earlier this year. I asked him what life is like for him now:

My life has opened up. It’s a new world of engagement. Friends, outings, education, meetings, training. The best medication for people with fragile health is morale, it makes all the therapies, work better.”

He compared his fight to increase the subsidy to his rugby days: 

“Maybe I did pick up life lessons from Rugby. You just press on, always, you don’t notice the cuts, the bruises, the mud stinging your eyes, until after the game – and then you’re all mates. Change.org was like having 20,000 in the grandstand cheering us on against a team who thought they were unbeatable.”

The subsidy will mean thousands of disabled people are able to get out, work, volunteer, and feel far less alone. 

Mikey’s mum persuaded Coles & Woolies to make shopping ten times easier for parents of disabled kids

Experiencing the world with a disability is hard enough. But when you’re a child with disability, who speaks up for you? Who helps you navigate the obstacles that prevent you leading a normal life?

For Mikey, 5, who has cerebral palsy it was his mum, Kelly. But Kelly needed to amplify her voice - and she chose to log on Change.org to do that.

Mikey, who has cerebral palsy 

Mikey, who has cerebral palsy 

Kelly Winton successfully campaigned for trolleys for disabled people like her son, Mikey. She targeted Coles and Woolworths, writing: “As Mikey’s growing, he wears a leg brace because of his cerebral palsy - there’s no way he can use ordinary trolleys. His condition means he tires easily and so needs the support of a safe and supported trolley.”

I caught up with Kelly, who has now been using the disabled trolleys for 18 months. She reflected on what made her petition successful: 

“Your platform is easy to use, even for people like me who aren’t that computer friendly! I knew this small change for Coles and Woolworths would have a big impact on my life - and thousands of others with disabled kids. 

“It helped that nearly everybody seems to know Change.org. Once my campaign had the weight of your name behind it, it took my message to another level - and that’s what made the big supermarkets start listening and acting.”

And the best thing? “With these new trolleys, now my husband takes Mikey to do the shopping, so I get a much-needed break!”

Want to change something that's important to you or someone you love? Start a petition here.

Would you like to leave a message for Mark or Kelly? Write one below and we'll pass it on