Just your average bloke

By Indi Fillery

Brand Engagement Officer

Tony Vardaro is a self-declared average bloke. The proud father worked as a social worker at TAFE for 17 years ensuring that students with disabilities got the support they needed to study.

Yet for a bloke that was told he wouldn’t manage school past grade four, his accomplishments are perhaps a little more than average.

“I’ve had an interesting life,” Tony said.

“I spent the first 17 years of my life in an institution for people with disabilities, and I decided that wasn’t for me.”

An older man sits with two therapists.

Pictured: Physiotherapist Nicole Massey (L), Tony Vardaro and Occupational Therapist Katherine Cooper (R)

“So in 1968 I decided to go and live with my parents in Bunbury where I was able to go to the local high school. Back at the time, it just didn’t happen that people with disabilities went to regular schools.”

“But I’m a good talker and I got in and went as far as I could.”

Tony has never wanted his cerebral palsy to define him, or place restrictions on his life.

“I don’t want to go into a nursing home or supported accommodation. I want to live independently for as long as I can,” he said.

This independence is one of the things that makes Tony happiest in life, as well as his family. He may not have experienced the freedom he does today if he had let his past experiences determine his future.

As a child, Tony describes his interactions with occupational therapists and physiotherapists as challenging. Sceptical of letting the services back into his life, but needing their assistance to maintain independence, Tony began working with Therapy Focus.

An older man sits with two therapists.

“Working with Katherine and Nicole, I’ve really seen how good therapists can be,” he said

“They ask for permission to touch me, they have respect for me and we have a great working relationship.

“I’ll be honest with the girls and say no to things if it’s not what I want, and they’ve said; right, if that’s not what you want we’ll find another option and move onto the next thing.

Therapy Focus Physiotherapist Nicole Massey and Occupational Therapist Katherine Cooper have been working closely with Tony since late 2018. Through teamwork and honest communication, Tony is able to continue living the independent life he loves.

“Tony is one of the most thoughtful and driven people that we have ever met,” Nicole said.

“He knows exactly what supports he needs and the goals he wants to work on.”

Together they plan and implement strategies to maintain his independence so he can live safely at home for as long as possible and access the community as needed.

“Since first meeting Tony, we have thoroughly enjoyed listening to his experiences as a social worker and his strong commitment to advocating for himself and for others with a disability,” Katherine said.

“He is quick to make a joke and have a laugh with his team, keeping the mood light-hearted.”

As part of his therapy services, Tony has been prescribed a new wheelchair and footwear that supports him when standing and transferring from his wheelchair, reducing the risk of falling.

Next on the list is sourcing a specialised mobile phone, practising ways to transition from sitting, and completing tasks like showering, dressing and sleeping in his home.

“Tony now has a clear plan enabling him to achieve his goals and to maintain his quality of life,” Nicole said.

“This is a testament to Tony’s involvement with setting his goals, challenging himself and working hard with his therapy team to achieve great outcomes.”

Interested in services for Older Adults?

We offer continence assessment and management services for older adults, including those with disability.