POWER OF LOVE: Michelle Burrell fought for five years for an automatic wheelchair for her 17-year-old son Jordie who was born with a disability.
POWER OF LOVE: Michelle Burrell fought for five years for an automatic wheelchair for her 17-year-old son Jordie who was born with a disability. Mike Richards GLA110418CHAIR

Why this Gladstone family feels like they have won the lotto

FOR the first time in years, Jordie Burrell and his mum Michelle are no longer trapped.

Jordie, a 17-year-old who loves cricket, can now comfortably play with his dog in the backyard, visit the park and go to the shops with his parents.

Activities that many take for granted were once a dream for Jordie because of an intellectual disability he has had since birth.

Five years ago he lost his ability to walk and since then things have gradually worsened.

But yesterday Jordie was beaming when he showed off a new, blue automatic Glide wheelchair to The Observer.

"It feels like we have won the lotto," Mrs Burrell said.

For half a decade, the family has doggedly fought for funding for an automatic wheelchair to make their lives a little easier.

In November, Mrs Burrell thought her dream had come true with written funding approval for a wheelchair from the Medical Aids Subsidy Scheme.

But the celebration was short-lived.

Michelle and Jordan Burrell, 17, from Gladstone, feel they have been unfairly treated by the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Michelle and Jordie Burrell pictured during a more difficult time late last year. Matt Taylor GLA201217NDIS

Two days later she was told they would not receive the equipment.

The scheme claimed funding could not be approved because Mrs Burrell had already signed a National Disability Insurance Scheme plan, which she said was not true.

After Mrs Burrell shared her story with The Observer - featured on the December 21 front page - the scheme re-promised to provide a wheelchair.

Soon after she received three written apologies from Queensland Government ministers.

"This wheelchair has changed our life," Mrs Burrell said.

"We can go to cafes, parks, out to the beach. It has really opened up his world.

"It's huge to us. What was frightening was for a long time we were made housebound."

The quietly spoken mum with a warm smile struggled to put into words what the $10,000 Australian-made wheelchair meant for the family.

"It's been six years since I've seen Jordie this happy. It was when we first moved to Gladstone and he was just so excited," she said.

Despite the life-changing arrival of his first automatic wheelchair, Mrs Burrell is still concerned about applying for additional disability funding.

The whole thing (regarding the wheelchair funding) was cold, calculating and done with no compassion.

"People think because of the NDIS you apply for funding and you get it but you still have to go through so many processes," she said.

A Pathway Review of the NDIS released earlier this year showed a large percentage of people wanted more transparency.

The review was completed to address feedback from people who said their experience with the scheme had fallen short of their expectations.

A new approach with clearer, more consistent information and policy guidance was recommended.

Mrs Burrell said her work advocating for better disability support was not over.

The 52-year-old, whose mother inspired her to be an advocate for her own rights and to stand up for what she believed in, said there was still work that needed to be done to gain community understanding for people with disabilities.

"It is so hard to have a voice," Mrs Burrell said.

"The whole thing (regarding the wheelchair funding) was cold, calculating and done with no compassion.

"This has been about standing up for our rights and looking out for our boy.

"It's an awful feeling not to be able to provide for your family."

Mrs Burrell said the wheelchair would help her health too.

She has a deteriorating back condition worsened from being a full-time carer for her son.