Guideline on Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction: Early Warning and Accessible Broadcasting. This document was prepared with the Asia Pacific region in mind. But the principles of inclusion and how to implement them in a disaster situation are relevant to any region or country. The Guideline states it, “…is designed to address the lack of appropriate information and practices on inclusive policies and practices on disaster preparedness, accessible early warnings, accessible transportation, and life safety and evacuation of persons with disabilities.” The document was funded by UN ESCAP. The Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union, Asia Disaster Preparedness Center and GAATES collaborated on the document. With an increase in severe weather events across the world, it is important to ensure people with any kind of disability are afforded the same survival chances as anyone else no matter where they live.
Cities are expanding across the globe and dictating how we live our lives. So the way they are designed is becoming increasingly important. Cities take up about 2% of the land mass but make up 70% of the economy, 60% of the global energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global waste. The development of the UN New Urban Agenda has taken many years and there is a raft of documentation. The 5 page New Urban Agenda Explainer gives a more digestible overview. While the document does not mention universal design specifically, inclusion of all people to access the benefits of cities is a key theme. It also recommends a bottom up approach so that marginalised groups can participate in designing and developing urban areas.
The New Urban Agenda was adopted by the United Nations at the end of 2016, and, “… represents a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future – one in which all people have equal rights and access to the benefits and opportunities that cities can offer, and in which the international community reconsiders the urban systems and physical form of our urban spaces to achieve this.”
Centre for Universal Design Australia made a submission to the Senate inquiry on the Delivery of Outcomes under the National Disability Strategy to build inclusive and accessible communities. The submission (No. 76) is now public and available on the Australian Government website. The key points were:
attitudes to people with disability and older people have not shifted far enough to create an inclusive society yet and more work needs to be done;
current planning laws and processes do not guarantee inclusive performance or outcomes; and
the needs of people with disability and older people are treated as “add-ons” in designs instead of being considered from the outset and consequently more (unnecessary) rules and regulations are needed so that designers can offset their lack of understanding.
“Diversity is being asked to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” This is a great quote from Verna Myers. Her context is the workplace and the employment and advancement of women and people of colour. But of course, it is relevant to all other groups that are seeking inclusion. The Harvard Business Review in its article, Diversity doesn’t stick without inclusion discusses this issue. It is one thing to have a diverse population, but that doesn’t mean equity or inclusion will automatically follow. The HBR puts it in the employment context, “Part of the problem is that “diversity” and “inclusion” are so often lumped together that they’re assumed to be the same thing. But that’s just not the case. In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.”
Editor’s note: Ico-wrote a paper on inclusion being something where you have to wait for the “mainstream” group to invite you in. Inclusiveness is something that is present, it is happening now. You can see the slideshow version too which has some explanatory graphics.
Emily Steel has written a thoughtful piece on how the intent of the National Disability Strategy has been left languishing while the NDIS receives all the attention. Her main point is that the processes and outcomes can end up working against inclusion and perpetuating segregation. She says, “But on its own, the NDIS … risks perpetuating segregation built on the perception that people with disability have ‘special needs’ that cannot be addressed in mainstream society.” The NDIS will only support a relatively small number of people with disability. So what can others expect if they do not qualify for NDIS support? Will the public and private sectors falsely believe that they no longer need to take responsibility for inclusion? All the more reason to support the push for universally designed environments, services, products and programs. You can go to LinkedIn for the full article by Emily.
The graphic, found on Pinterest, neatly shows the concepts of exclusion, separation, integration and inclusion. It can be applied to any marginalised group of people.
The Human Rights Commission’s latest report, Missing Out: The business case for customer diversity raises two questions: can organisations afford to ignore the diversity of their customer base? And, what impact will this have over time? The research used for the report shows that organisations that are inclusive enjoy repeat business from their diverse customer base and strong recommendations to others.
According to the report, around 28% of complaints received by the Commission in 2015-16 alleged discrimination by businesses based on sex, age, race, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. The report does more than cite customer complaints, it provides a way forward for organisations that want to improve their approach beyond the legal compliance of discrimination laws. Organisations that have embraced diversity in their workforce are generally in a better position to consider diversity in their customer base. So it seems workforce diversity might be a good first step. You can see a related article on the BBC News website about disability being an emerging market not a niche market.
Editor’s note: I notice that the Commission’s report uses the term “organisations” rather than “businesses”. No doubt the not for profit sector has not been immune from complaints.
This item comes from the UK and raises the issue here in Australia – what are the rules for pram users and wheelchair users, and also older people, when there is only one wheelchair bay on the bus?
In Leeds, a wheelchair user boarded a bus, but a woman with a stroller was occupying the wheelchair bay. Complying with company policy, the driver asked her to move but she refused. The wheelchair user had to wait for the next bus, which meant he missed his train. On the grounds of discrimination, the wheelchair user took the matter to the Supreme Court. The ruling was that drivers are not legally obliged to force someone with a stroller to give up the space. A spokesperson for the bus users organisation said that ultimately everyone should have equal access to public transport, which means the designated wheelchair bay is not protected for wheelchair users only. The spokesperson added that, “we would like to see bus designers, manufacturers and operators thinking more creatively about how buses can meet the needs of all passengers.”
Transport for NSW has a webpage of information for people with mobility aids and for prams, strollers, and buggies. Basically, a pram user is expected to fold the pram and take a seat in the main section of the bus if a wheelchair user or older person boards the bus after them. But have they seen the size of some of prams? Perhaps it is time for a review of bus design as many policy makers and healthy built environment advocates are pushing for us to use public transport more often – they call it “active travel”.
If you haven’t seen what an Easy Read document looks like then the report, Willing to Work Easy Read version by the Human Rights Commission, is an excellent example. It contains all the key information in short sentences that suit a wide audience, including people who do not have English as a first language. It is universally designed. So it begs the question, why aren’t all reports written this way? Unless you really need the fine detail, the Easy Read summary version gives most people all the key information quickly and easily.
The Willing to Work report was launched in May 2016. It was a response to the overwhelming number of discrimination complaints relating to employment for both older people and people with disability. It has some interesting facts and shows how poorly we compare to other developed countries around the world in terms of employment. You can download the full report in both PDF and Word from the Human Rights Commission website.
What is “reasonableness’ in the concept of reasonable accommodation” when it comes to applying accessibility and universal design? Professor Rafael de Asis Roig discusses this philosophical question in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. He contends that the content of universal accessibility is “constrained by three types of circumstances that could be considered as the bounds for what is necessary, possible and reasonable”.
For anyone interested in the debate about reasonableness, and the application of “unjustifiable hardship” rulings by the Australian Human Rights Commission, this article explores reasonableness from different perspectives and concludes,
“Therefore, in accordance with the foregoing, it is possible to have a comprehensive vision about reasonableness in the disability domain. This demand makes it necessary to deem a measure as reasonable in the context of disabilities when:
It is justified because it adequately provides for full participation in society.
It shall be deemed as possible, taking into account the state of scientific, technical and human diversity knowledge.
It shall be deemed as a non-discriminatory differentiation or undifferentiation which is not harmful for physical and moral integrity and at the same time does not prevent from meeting basic needs nor avoids participation in society on an equal basis.
It shall be deemed as proportional and, therefore, entails more advantages than sacrifices within the context of human rights.
It shall be deemed as acceptable by the community to which it is addressed.”
An earlier unpublished article tackles the issues of human rights and “unjustifiable hardship” in the Australian context by Schraner, Bringolf and Sidotiwhich discusses the issues from an economic perspective. Written in 2012, it pre-dates the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The United Nations has an Easy Read version on their website, complete with illustrations. The Victorian version is designed for service providers and picks out the key points in a table format. The Enable version is more accessible to people who have difficulty with literacy. These documents make for handy ready reference for everyone without having to work through the UN document itself. You can access all documents through the UN website.