October 24th marks World Polio Day. In a year where a global pandemic has altered daily life for many of us, World Polio Day is a time to understand the journey of global health experts and partners to eradicate Polio across the globe.

It’s also a time to reflect on Australia’s 1950s Polio epidemic and the many initiatives and services established by Afford to support Polio sufferers to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society.

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, and among those paralysed, 5%-10% die when breathing muscles become immobilised.

Over an almost 70-year history, Afford’s origins are traced back to supporting Polio sufferers throughout the 1950s epidemic.

Afford was first known as The Poliomyelitis Society, which was established in 1951. The Society helped Polio sufferers in a time when over 1,500 cases and 121 deaths recorded in New South Wales alone as a result of the disease.

In the following years, the Society opened accommodation-based services, such as ‘Elamang’, which was the Society’s Country Polio Hostel and Administrative Headquarters. This service provided essential Sydney based accommodation for country Polio sufferers who required specialised orthopaedic attention that was not readily available in country regions.

An After-Care Hospital in Turramurra NSW, called ‘Cherrywood’, also provided a rehabilitation home for people with Polio to both meet physical needs and to develop skills to secure employment. Various regional branches were also established to support sufferers.

By 1954 the Society gained wide respect for its varied supports for people affected by Polio. Walking frames, hydraulic lifting apparatus and physiotherapy services were all available for patients.

Regular doctor visits, compassion and specialist care, fostered the Society’s inherent reputation as stoic support for the community.

By the 1960s, the Polio epidemic was largely controlled due to the introduction of the Salk Vaccine. The Society recognised that their role needed to evolve into one of ongoing support for those who had contracted Polio.

Over almost seven decades, the organisation advanced and grew to support not only sufferers of Polio but also individuals living with various forms of physical and intellectual disability.

The organisation led the way in establishing supported employment as well as housing options and programs to support the physical, social and employment needs of people affected by Polio and disability.

After a handful of name changes over the years, Afford (The Australian Foundation for Disability), became the name for the organisation 2001.

Today, due to widespread vaccination against Polio introduced in the mid-1950s, Australia is considered Polio free.

Afford today supports thousands of people living with disability right across the country. From its beginnings as support for Polio sufferers, Afford is now recognised as a leading disability provider across Australasia.

Throughout the Coronavirus, Afford has provided continuity of disability supports for individuals of all abilities across the country through virtual, one-to-one and innovative initiatives to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all in its community.

Afford delivers a whole-of-life approach to disability supports through day programssupported accommodationemploymentallied healthGetawaysClub Afford and short term accommodation that give individuals opportunity to live the life they want under the NDIS.

With decades of experience, a mission to provide every individual with opportunity and genuine care and a holistic approach to disability supports, Afford can help you achieve your goals for home, work and life under the NDIS.

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