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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