Kahli Olesen was an independent nurse before losing her vision, which inspired her to launch Integrated Disability Support Services (IDSS).
Alongside Michelle McPhee, she has grown the Bundaberg-based business from humble beginnings to now service regional Queensland between Gladstone and the Sunshine Coast.
“We initially started as two ladies in the back of the Brewhouse as some liked to refer to us as,” Kahli said.
“Today we support 400 participants in the region and we employ 245 local people.
“We provide support to people living with physical, intellectual and psychosocial disabilities in their homes and also in the community.”
As a registered psychiatric nurse the direction Kahli’s career path has taken was not part of her original plan.
“In 2017, I lost my vision quite suddenly and rapidly,” she said.
“I eventually got a diagnosis of single episodic optic neuritis but for me that meant that I lost my peripheral vision completely and I gained central double vision.
“It rendered me incapable of working in the profession that I had chosen as a registered nurse.
“I went from being quite a young, capable individual who was very independent in her life to being completely dependent on others to do things for me.”
This “lived experience” was far from seeing Kahli beaten and, rising to the challenge, she decided to start IDSS in the hopes of supporting other people through similar situations.
“We really wanted to make a difference within our local community and help those who were otherwise not being supported.”
Kahli said she was humbled to think of the many clients that had benefited from her experience through IDSS.
“I think the opportunity of, first of all, starting as a health professional in my career and then being able to go through a lived experience definitely gave me that whole understanding and appreciation for the people who I was helping,” she said.
“Having then needed the help myself, I think, was a great launching point for Integrated Disability Support Services.”
IDSS has offices in Bundaberg, Childers and Caloundra and recently opened its first custom-built housing accommodation.