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.”
The article, Reasonableness in the Concept of Reasonable Accommodation, was published in The Age of Human Rights Journal, 6 (June 2016)
An earlier unpublished article tackles the issues of human rights and “unjustifiable hardship” in the Australian context by Schraner, Bringolf and Sidoti which discusses the issues from an economic perspective. Written in 2012, it pre-dates the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Torrie Dunlap gives a first hand account of how she thought people with disability had “special needs” and now realises that this thinking marginalises and separates, particularly when “special arrangements” are made. For universal design to get greater traction, first we need more people like Torrie to make that paradigm shift. Indeed, this Tedx Talk is a really good example to show people who have yet to even consider how they patronise (even just in their thinking).
Torrie relates real stories of children and how they are treated as special, with special days and special events which are obviously not inclusive. She even tells of a special day for children with disability to visit Santa – why can’t they go any day? Here is a snippet from her talk:
“A mental model is a deeply ingrained set of beliefs based on assumptions, generalizations, media images, our own experience or lack of it. Basically, how we think about stuff… For many of us, our mental model around disability reflects the medical model – something to fear, something to fix, something to feel sorry for, and that we can feel good when we help less fortunate people. But, what happens when we consciously change our internal model and view disability as neutral, and the environment as a factor? What if we see children with disabilities first as children, and not a diagnosis or as “special?”
The link to the page and video includes a full transcript of the Tedx talk.
DISABILITY & DEVELOPMENT: How to include persons with disabilities in development cooperation.
Although this manual is aimed at people working on aid programs in developing countries, there are many aspects that could be applied in the Australian context.
The first chapter covers the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the development process supported by the international cooperation. The second chapter relates the collection and analysis of inclusive development appropriate practices based on RIDS members’ experience. The manual ends with a series of recommendations aimed at promoting an effective inclusive development process. The case studies are from many different parts of the world. The manual was published in Italy and translated to English.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have also produced a handbook for Universal Design Principles for Australia’s Aid Program.