Life-changing Move Inspires New Direction For Paraplegic Athlete

Matt Alt 1
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For decades, paraplegic athlete Matt Speakman did not want a house with ‘rails and aids’ to remind him of the spinal injury he sustained at 26 when a drunk driver hit him on his motorbike. 

He sat on the floor of his shower, used a wheelchair without brakes and ‘performed acrobatics’ to move around homes that were not built for his needs. 

“I was rebelling against my situation,” says Matt. 

“I reveled in the fact my home had no modifications, avoiding any reminders that I was in a wheelchair.”  

A new lease on life 

At 54, Matt is finally living in an accessible home and the move has not only made life infinitely easier, its beachside and central location has inspired him to take on new challenges — like adaptive surfing and kayaking in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. 

“I’ve always had a love of the ocean so to be able to live there, to wake up in the morning and not just be able to see it but access it, has been a game-changer,” says Matt. 

“There is 24-hour onsite support so at the touch of a button there is someone to help with my beach equipment which gives me a great sense of confidence that I can achieve my career and sporting goals. 

“It’s like the world is calling me to get out there and get involved and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” 

Finding freedom 

Matt attributes his new lease on life with being part of a vibrant community and accessing the things he loves — made possible by the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) apartments developed by C2 ventilated quadriplegic, Perry Cross AM. 

Perry and his long-time friends, property developer Tom Ray and home builders Tim Douglas and Jason Doerr, founded Accessible Homes Australia (AHA) to provide people with high-care needs housing opportunities that enhanced their physical and mental wellbeing. 

AHA was born through Perry’s personal experience in searching for, and then creating, suitable SDA, which is funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), to live independently for the first time since breaking his neck in a rugby tackle in 1994. 

“The move into accessible housing changed me for the better but the process was difficult with so few SDA-registered homes available,” says Perry. 

“Through AHA we build suitable homes in connected communities and help people access their appropriate level of SDA funding so they can enjoy the freedom of independent living with the confidence of onsite support.” 

New community, new opportunities 

Matt lives in the new Gold Coast development of East Palm Beach in one of seven SDA apartments for NDIS participants requiring a high level of physical support. The participants share onsite concierge care services provided by CareMatch Australia and have custom-fitted homes with assistive modifications, voice-controlled call and duress systems, technology and accessible living areas. 

Since the move, Matt’s been working with 11-time world waveski champion Rees Duncan to train for the Olympics — something he says is 100 per cent inspired by his new home.  

On top of his Olympic dreams, Matt’s keen to become the face of adaptive surfing in Australia, represent his country in European surfing competitions, and return to motor racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup. He’s also developing a seated frame and new board design to go kitesurfing next summer.  

 

Matt Alt 2

A life of limitations 

Before his move into East Palm Beach, Matt was living in non-accessible and, at times, dangerous housing in areas he says felt isolated. 

“I used to sit around for three to four hours of a morning pondering what to do, not wanting to go out the front door because I’d have to get in a car or navigate badly maintained footpaths. It was just a pain to go anywhere,” says Matt. 

“Here you sit on your balcony and you’re watching people having a healthy and fun life and it’s just irresistible, you can’t help putting your coffee down, jumping in the lift, going for a push and getting out there and enjoying it yourself.” 

Increasing independence  

Perry says outcomes like Matt’s gives hope to other NDIS participants currently navigating the process.  

“The SDA is one of the greatest innovations in Australia’s modern times as it gives people flexibility, choice and control in where and how they live,” he says. 

“It empowers participants to live independently through a shared support model, which is more cost-effective for the NDIA and gives better outcomes for residents. 

“Sadly, there is a shortage of SDA-approved homes across the country and AHA is trying to change that.” 

Find a home 

East Palm Beach and No. 1 Grant Avenue SDA apartments are fully occupied, but AHA is taking enquiries from eligible NDIS participants for upcoming projects.  

To register your interest please contact the team at team@accessiblehomes.com.au or fill in our contact form. 

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