Disability Data: Does it add value to the cause of inclusion?

hundreds of lego people, white bodies with yellow heads are lined up like soldiers on paradeHigh values are placed on statistics and economics. So when it comes to the topic of people with disability questions are asked such as, “So how many people are there with disability anyway?” and “Should we bother about a few people when there are so many other things to think about?”  What more could statistics add (or detract) from the inclusion agenda? What kind of statistics might matter most? Who is the subject of such data and how is it collected? Who is best placed to collect such data? And who decides on the questions to be asked?

Deborah Rhodes addresses some of these issues in a thoughtful discussion paper “Monitoring and Evaluation in Disability-Inclusive Development: Ensuring data ABOUT disability-inclusive development contributes TO inclusion”. Elements of this discussion paper provide food for thought for both development projects and policy development here at home in Australia. There are some key questions at the end of the paper that should be asked as there are many unspoken assumptions that all data are good data:

  1. What is the most important purpose for collecting data?
  2. Who is determining the reason for the data collection?
  3. What are other purposes for collecting data (that may or may not need to be prioritised)?
  4. How can we ensure that the data we collect is relevant to the policy, programming and attitudinal changes that people in the specific context seek to achieve?
  5. What information will tell us about the specific changes involved?
  6. Who will actually benefit from the information generated?
  7. What is the opportunity cost associated with data collection, i.e. would funds needed for the survey be better spent on raising awareness or responding to local priorities for inclusion?
  8. Will the data help to raise awareness of the costs of exclusion?

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) oversees the funding of Australian Aid projects and has has produced guidelines on universal design for all Australian aid projects.

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Diversity and inclusion: why don’t they care?

A bearded man in a white shirt leans back from his desk and computer. He is laughing and has a sticker on his forehead that reads, be happy.The Fifth Estate has published a very interesting article titled, Why people hate on diversity and inclusion (and how to get them not to). It’s by the CEO of Diversity Council Australia, Lisa Annese. She argues that when diversity and inclusion fall on certain ears it raises hackles as being a problem. She quotes David Gaider, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.” Annese discusses the research that shows the more diverse a company’s workforce, the more satisfied the whole workplace is, and that leads to improved productivity. It should also lead to better service for their customers. They are a diverse lot too!

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No More Missed Business

Front cover of the Missed Business guide showing an empty car park and an empty accessible car spaceThe Missed Business booklet originally devised by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Marrickville Council has been updated by the NSW Business Chamber. On the positive, it gives key messages in simple sentences and information is presented on three pages with lots of graphics. The layout is designed for two page spread so font is small for online reading. Nevertheless it is good to see this publication appear again. It is aimed at small businesses. There are links to additional documents. You can access the guide online or by downloading the PDF document directly. Lane Cove Council, and Macarthur, have developed their own similar guides with a little more information. Check you local council too. For more on customer service and digital access, see the Human Rights Commission’s additional booklet, Access for all: Improving accessibility for consumers with disability (2016).

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Accessibility toolkit from Ireland

Foyer of a public building looking towards the front entrance. A reception desk is in the foregroundThe National Disability Authority, which funds the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland, has produced an online Accessibility Toolkit that is targeted towards services, both public and business. The home page has a list of items that you can look at individually. They are listed and linked below. The home page also has a 16 minute video briefly outlining each of the items. Each of the links below has links to further resources.

Commit to providing accessible services

Provide disability equality training to staff

Consult customers with disabilities

Develop an Equal Status Policy

Consider accessibility when procuring

Include accessibility in a Customer Charter

Appoint an Access Officer and Access Team

Make your services more accessible

Make your buildings more accessible

Plan safe evacuation for all customers and staff

Make your information more accessible

Make your websites more accessible

Accessibility Statement Template

 

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Barclays debunk five myths

Five red balloons in a row with the title 5 common myths about accessibilityNeat video by Barclays Bank that debunks common myths about customer complaints, costs of being accessible, access being someone else’s job, it’s too small a market for all that time and effort, and accessible design is boring design. Towards the end there is a great statement, “accessible design should work well for those who need it, and be invisible to those who don’t”. A really useful video for anyone promoting accessible customer service in our digital world, and for others wondering if it really is worth the effort. The video is captioned. You can find out more about Barclays work in this area. They also have a Twitter feed.

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What’s it called? Terminology and universal design

Picture of the back of a house that is being built. The ground is just dirt. Overlaid are words in different colours: Adaptable, Universal, Visitable, Usable, Accessible, Disabled, FlexibleUniversal, inclusive, accessible, design-for-all – are they all the same? Some would argue there are some differences, but the goals are very much the same – inclusion of everyone. Different disciplines, different practitioners, and different countries tend to favour one over the others. Academics find this problematic as it makes it difficult to build an international body of research on a topic where terminology can vary so much. Regulations and codes have not helped the cause: Web accessibility standards, Adaptable Housing standard, Access to Premises Standard, and then there is “universal access” which tends to relate to the built environment. Not having an agreed language or terms is discussed in the Journal of Universal Access in the Information Society. The article  has a long title: Universal design, inclusive design, accessible design, design for all: different concepts—one goal? On the concept of accessibility—historical, methodological and philosophical aspects. This is a very useful paper to get a grasp of how we have come to this position and where we need to go. You will need institutional access for a free read, or it can be purchased.

Abstract: Accessibility and equal opportunities for all in the digital age have become increasingly important over the last decade. In one form or another, the concept of accessibility is being considered to a greater or smaller extent in most projects that develop interactive systems. However, the concept varies among different professions, cultures and interest groups. Design for all, universal access and inclusive design are all different names of approaches that largely focus on increasing the accessibility of the interactive system for the widest possible range of use. But, in what way do all these concepts differ and what is the underlying philosophy in all of these concepts? This paper aims at investigating the various concepts used for accessibility, its methodological and historical development and some philosophical aspects of the concept. It can be concluded that there is little or no consensus regarding the definition and use of the concept, and consequently, there is a risk of bringing less accessibility to the target audience. Particularly in international standardization the lack of consensus is striking. Based on this discussion, the authors argue for a much more thorough definition of the concept and discuss what effects it may have on measurability, conformance with standards and the overall usability for the widest possible range of target users.

Editor’s note: I also wrote on this thorny topic in 2009: Calling a Spade a Shovel: Universal, accessible, adaptable, disabled – aren’t they all the same? Or you can get the quick version from the PowerPoint presentation.

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Why do they keep designing stuff like that?

Woman with a baby stroller using the platform lift to get onto the raised bus stop platform .The bus stop is a tube shaped shelterThe Universalising Design website has an interesting article, Negotiating Place: The Challenge of Inclusive Design. The article highlights the concept of place as being unequal – many places are designed in ways that keep certain people out. It begins with a quote from an access consultant, “In my more miserable moments I think we’ll never get it right, and people just ignore it, and building control officers don’t implement it, and we still see buildings where somebody says it’s accessible, and it’s not accessible at all. We’re still designing public spaces with cobbles, brand new public spaces with cobbles and seats that have got no arms or backrests, and they don’t understand that an older person can’t get up off a concrete stone bench. Why do they keep designing stuff like that?” 

The author, Charlotte Bates, makes good points, including the one that many of us know: even when you design something to be inclusive, it is overridden by contractors who focus on time and money. So there is no guarantee the end result will be accessible. Very readable article.

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