Justice and capability in education

A triangular sign with a red border and the outline of two children running holding hands. The word school is written underneath.Anyone interested in the philosophy of rights, inclusion and justice from the perspective of Amartya Sen’s capability approach will find Andrea Broderick’s article interesting. In this case she is discussing the right to education. In her conclusion she says, “According to Sen, the question ‘equality of what?’ is pivotal in the search for justice. As demonstrated in this article, the capability approach inspires a four-part framework based upon justice and equality of capabilities. It advocates that social structures should respond to human diversity and allow for human flourishing”. The full title of the arricle is, Equality of What? The Capability Approach and the Right to Education for Persons with Disabilities.  

Abstract: The right to education is indispensable in unlocking other substantive human rights and in ensuring full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in mainstream society. The cornerstone of Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities seeks to ensure access to inclusive education for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others as well as the full development of human potential. Since the adoption of the Convention, there has been much theorising about inclusive education; however, there has been little focus on the meaning of equality in the context of the right to education for persons with disabilities. The capability approach, developed by Amartya Sen and further refined by Martha Nussbaum, focuses on ensuring equality and developing human potential. It is often viewed as a tool that can be used to overcome the limitations of traditional equality assessments in the educational sphere, which only measure resources and outcomes. This article explores whether the capability approach can offer new insights into the vision of educational equality contained in the Convention and how that vision can be implemented at the national level.  

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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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Very low pay is a form of exclusion

A man wearing denim shorts holds out the inners of his pockets to show they are empty.If we apply the underpinning principles of universal design to all aspects of our daily lives and embrace the concept of inclusion, where do very low paid workers fit into the scheme of things? Willow Aliento discusses in Fifth Estate the “key worker” issue using a barista as an example of how low paid workers can’t even consider a home and family. So how does that fit with notions of equity? And for older workers who might have their own home, maintaining an existence becomes a daily challenge. She argues that property development policies need to factor stable employment into the mix along with being age and ability inclusive. A good article well written.

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Age? What’s that got to do with it?

a picture of people waling in different directions but blurredA new report by Per Capita about employment and older people advises that stereotyping, even if positive, is still stereotyping and not helpful for employers. Indeed, the report reminds us that ageism can be applied to any age group, but more recently it has been captured in policy agendas as a term belonging older people. The research for the report, “What’s Age Got to Do With It?“, was carried out by Philip Taylor* and Warwick Smith. The report challenges some of the notions in the Willing to Work report by the Human Rights Commission. There is an Easy English version as well. It also suggests that ageing advocates might like to rethink some of their messages.

per capita logo in orange and blue with fighting inequality in Australia“Age-based stereotypes (such as loyal, reliable, wise) are often used by older people’s advocates but recent research has shown that these stereotypes may be reinforcing already existing negative views of older workers among employers because these are not the traits they are primarily looking for in employees. This has potentially important implications for efforts to overcome age discrimination by employers. Not only are older workers being promoted in terms of qualities that employers are already more likely to ascribe to them, such qualities are given a lower weighting in terms of employment decisions that take account of productivity.”

The New Daily and Crikey posted articles based on the report. The full report can be downloaded from the Per Capita website.

*Professor Philip Taylor is a Director of CUDA 

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Accessible Broadcasting in Disasters

white background with orange logo depicting a tsunami coming to a house with a person with a can walking awayGuideline 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 Front cover of the guidelinewith any kind of disability are afforded the same survival chances as anyone else no matter where they live.

The Guideline has very specific information on what is required in a given emergency situation. The PDF document can be downloaded from the GAATES website. There is a companion document, Guideline on Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction. 

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New Urban Agenda

aerial view of a big city with skyscrapersCities 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.”

 

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Inclusive and Accessible Communities submission

logo of the Parliament of Australia. Black text on white background with a small coat of armsCentre 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.

Australian Network for Universal Housing Design also made a submission (No. 1) which is on the the Australian Government website. 92 submissions to this inquiry are now publicly available.

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Diversity and inclusion: not the same thing

The feet of two dancers. The woman is wearing red and white shoes and the man regular black shoes“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: I co-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.

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Is the NDIS promoting inclusion?

Graphic with four circles: one each for exclusion, separation, integration and inclusion.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.

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Embracing diversity is good business

front cover of the report. Black background with a neon sign in red saying openThe 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.

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