Victoria’s Autism Plan

The Victoria’s Autism Plan builds on their Absolutely everyone: state disability plan. It incorporates commitments to remove specific barriers faced by people in the autistic community. The plan is based on feedback from a parliamentary inquiry into the needs of autistic people and their families. Building helpful attitudes toward autistic people is a key element of Victoria’s Autism Plan.

The document begins with personal stories, which is pleasing to see because they are more revealing than statistics or diagnoses. It sets the tone for the rest of the document and acknowledges additional barriers faced by the autistic community.

Front cover of Victorian Autism plan showing a child in a blue track suit on a swing. A woman stands behind him.

A note on language

The term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is no longer the preferred term. Language is influential in changing community attitudes so choosing the right terms is important. Individuals and advocacy bodies were asked which term they thought should be used in the plan. There was general agreement that the term “autistic people” should be used. An important point – ask people what terms they prefer.

Key points in the plan

The parliamentary inquiry found that autistic people experience social isolation, and difficulty accessing health and other public services. Specific barriers included:

  • lack of community understanding
  • accessing education that meets their needs
  • exclusion from employment opportunities
  • limited access to supports and services
  • additional barriers to inclusion for autistic people with intersecting identities
A boy and a woman lay on the grass together looking up at the sky.

The commitments in this plan relate to the key areas in the state disability plan: inclusive communities; health housing and wellbeing; fairness and safety; and contributing lives. The plan has more detail on each commitment and useful case studies illustrate success stories.

Although there is greater community awareness of autism, community attitudes remain the biggest barrier to inclusion in social and economic life. Many autistic people avoid environmental barriers such as crowds, noise and light levels. Worrying how people will treat them or respond to them adds to social isolation.

There are four ways to access the plan on the website: Full version in PDF, Easy English Version in PDF, a text version in Word, and an Auslan summary. Or you can download the full PDF version, Victorian Autism Plan.

Law schools and universal design

Aerial view of a large public library with long desks around a central console. Law schools teach law and introduce the values that students take into the legal profession. Unless law schools embrace universal design, they will continue to be inequitable and pose barriers to people who might be good lawyers. This is the basis of an article by Matthew Timko where he says the place to introduce universal design is through law libraries.

Timko says the law library is the ideal testing ground for changes that assist student comprehension and testing. Beginning with the library services, the value of universal design will gradually become apparent to all stakeholders. From there it will enter the legal academy, legal education process and legal profession.

Timko uses the 7 Principles of Universal design as the framework for his proposition. This shows how flexibly the principles can be applied. He then discusses the role of disability legislation in the United States and the supports available. 

Photo of the sign on the grey stone building of The Royal Courts of Justice. Ethical and professional standards provide another opportunity to support individuals. Timko argues that most accommodations pose menial burdens on institutions but provide great benefit to individuals. However, they need to be provided as a general rule, not just when they are asked for. This is the underlying tenet of universal design for learning. 

The article goes into more detail about the role of legislation and how it should apply to law schools. In the conclusion, Timko states:

“Universal design offers the key to not only increased access to legal education and legal knowledge but also a more fundamental shift in the perceptions and thinking that have plagued disability laws and design habits over the last 30 years.”

The types of universal design features discussed can be introduced into the law library gradually and in cost-effective ways. 

The title of the article is, Applying Universal Design in the Legal Academy

From the editor

I was invited to participate in a question and answer interview for the Law Society Journal with Features Editor, Avril Janks. I was encouraged to find that universal design has entered the realms of the legal profession and happy to participate. 

We discussed universal design broadly and then how it might be implemented in legal workplaces. Universal design can be applied to the office design, office systems, and employment practice. So plenty of scope for the profession to be more inclusive. If you want to read the article published in the March 2023 edition, contact journal@lawsociety.com.au 

Jane Bringolf

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. She is referring to the workplace and the employment and advancement of women and people of colour. It is relevant to all other groups because diversity and inclusion are both part of the movement for more inclusive and equitable societies.

The Harvard Business Review discusses this issue in Diversity doesn’t stick without inclusion. It is one thing to have a diverse population, but that doesn’t mean equity or inclusion will automatically follow. Diversity and inclusion are often lumped together in the employment context. They are assumed to be the same thing. But this is not the case.

In the workplace, diversity equals representation. Attracting diverse talent requires full participation to foster innovation and growth. This is inclusion. Getting diverse talent is one thing, including them fully is another. 

Diversity & Inclusion: Start Here

A hand-drawn graphic with faces of bright colours with big eyes. They are grouped in a bunch.

The Commons Social Change Library is about social change and driving social movements in Australia. While the context of their guide is about driving social change, most of the information is applicable in any situation. 

The Diversity & Inclusion: Start Here guide introduces key concepts and links to other resources. The key point is that inclusion is a social change movement and we can all do our part by including marginalised people in our ranks. That’s whether it’s the workforce, our local sporting team or our social change campaigns.

Carly Findlay is a disability activist who reminds us that disability is part of diversity. Carly’s video explains her experience. Judy Heumann’s TED talk is also worth a look. 

Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk, The urgency of intersectionality is about race and gender bias. 

Kaytee Ray-Riek discusses marginalisation across the spectrum and ways of building trust and encouraging inclusive practice.  

Organisers of social justice events sometimes forget the basics of inclusion. Make your social justice event accessible spells out how to do it. 

Before people can get to an event they usually need information. The Internet is usually the first stop. So it’s important to Improve your website accessibility

There are many more resources on this website – you don’t need to be a campaigner to benefit from them. 

Brightly coloured books on a bookshelf with titles that represent social change.

The Commons Social Change Library is a not for profit organisation committed to educating for community action. They collect, curate and distribute the key lessons and resources of progressive movements around Australia and across the globe.

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.

Accessible and inclusive workplaces

There’s a lot of talk about inclusive workplaces and a diverse workforce, but a policy isn’t enough. The “how-to” is the tricky part. The Australian Human Rights Commission has produced a plain language guide to help employers recruit and include people with disability. The guide is titled IncludeAbility and is 10 pages (in PDF) and therefore sticks to the basics.

Graphic from the cover of accessible and inclusive workplaces called include ability.

People with disability have the right to work on an equal basis with others, and in a work environment that is ‘open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities’.

The guide covers some old ground including the ageing 7 Principles of Universal Design and the Lendlease Design for Dignity Guidelines. And of course existing standards for the built environment. In terms of technology, readers are directed to the WACG guide. Assistive technology and Employment Fund Assistance also get a mention. Case studies highlight some of the issues many people with disability face when getting work and while at work.

Workplace attitudes are the barriers you can’t see and are therefore the most difficult to overcome. There’s a list of questions employers can ask themselves that mostly relate to organisational policies and staff training. The Human Rights Commission offers staff training in capital cities.

Workplace technology

At an individual level, assistive technology bridges many of the gaps between being able and dis-abled. However, company websites should be accessible for staff as well as customers. Similarly, all key documents should offer accessible formats for staff and customers. the South Australian Government toolkit is referenced with more information on this topic.

Creating an accessible and inclusive workplace is available online where there are links to a PDF version and a Word version. The IncludeAbility website is has additional resources for people with disability and Frequently Asked Questions.

Editor’s comment: This document appears to be a gathering of existing information that’s been around for a while. It would be interesting to see what a co-designed guide would look like. That is, what do employers want to see in a guide and how do they want it presented.? A guide is a product so it can be universally designed too.

The Longevity Revolution and the 100 year life

A man with white hair and beard sits at a desk with a younger man. The longevity revolution has arrived and the 100 year life is here. But what are the challenges and how do we meet them? An article from the World Economic Forum poses this question as part of The Davos Agenda. The first thing is to dismiss discussions about an ageing crisis – there are opportunities to be realised.

According to research, a child born in 2000 can expect to see their 100th birthday. The implications carry across the whole of society, business, and government.

The Stanford Center on Longevity has launched “The New Map of Life” initiative. New models of education, work, policies for healthcare, housing, and the environment are on the agenda. And researchers aim to redefine what it means to be “old”. 

The Stanford report says we are not ready, but we can meet the challenges. Here are their principles:

      • Age diversity is a net positive
      • Invest in future centenarians to deliver big returns
      • Align health spans to life spans
      • Prepare to be amazed by the future of ageing
      • Work more years with more flexibility
      • Learn throughout life
      • Build longevity-ready communities

Longevity is about babies not old people

“The impact on the global workforce is profound but also not yet realized. Before, we would have three or four generations in the workforce. Now, we have five and even six generations in the workforce. While stereotypes of all generations abound, many aren’t true. A growing body of research indicates that multigenerational workforces are more productive, see lower rates of employee turnover, have higher levels of employee satisfaction, and feel better about their employer.” (from the New Map of Life).

The Design Council also addresses the issues from a built environment perspective. See the post The 100 year life

Older Academics: A question of equity and age:

A black and white portrait of Albert Einstein.The university sector has an ageing workforce. But are older academics encouraged to stay on, and if so, are they treated with equity? This is an important question in the context of a higher education institutions in a competitive global market.

A qualitative study of older academics revealed that older academics are not treated equitably by management. There is an emphasis on “performance” but no investment in it. The main human resource strategy for older academics seems to be pre-retirement planning. So there are two issues: performance evaluation and age management.

The study was carried out by Catherine Earl, Philip Taylor and Fabian Cannizzo who discuss the role of corporate objectives in the employment of older academics. They conclude that the ad hoc nature of retirement planning has perpetuated stereotypes of older academics. It puts pressure on individuals to avoid discrimination by making sure they “perform” well. Both the institutions and the academics are vulnerable in this global climate and an equitable solution needs to be found.

The title of the paper is, “Regardless of Age”: Australian University Managers’ Attitudes and Practices Towards Older Academics

Abstract: As with other industrialized nations Australia’s population is aging and older workers are encouraged to work for longer. At the same time, Australia’s university sector, which is aging, is being reconfigured through changes that potentially marginalize its older workers as higher education institutions try to become more competitive in a global market. In this context, youthfulness appears to embody competitiveness and academic institutions are increasingly aspiring to a young workforce profile. This qualitative article builds on previous research to explore to what extent ageist assumptions shape attitudes to older workers and human resource management (HRM) practices within Australian universities even when HRM practitioners are well versed in antidiscrimination legislation that (unlike the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in the United States) applies to workers of all ages. Semistructured interviews conducted with 22 HRM practitioners in Australian universities reveal that university HRM practices generally overlook the value of retaining an older workforce by conflating “potential” with “youthfulness,” assuming that staff potential and performance share a negative correlation with age. While mostly lower-ranked institutions have attempted to retain older academics to maintain an adequate labor supply, this study finds that university policies targeting the ongoing utilization of older workers generally are underdeveloped. Consequently, the availability of late career employment arrangements is dependent upon institutions’ strategic goals, with favorable ad hoc solutions offered to academics with outstanding performance records, while a rhetoric of performance decline threatens to marginalize older academic researchers and teachers more generally.

Editor’s note: Professor Philip Taylor is a CUDA board member.

Are you Diverse or Diversish?

A mosaic of many different faces and nationalitiesSometimes wry humour and satire is the way to get the message across. Sheri Byrne-Haber’s article You might be #Diversish if… explains what Diversish means. It’s a satirical term for businesses and organisations that call themselves diverse because they have a diversity policy. However, when you look at what they actually do, the policy is just collecting dust. So their claims lack authenticity. The article includes a British satirical video that really represents many of the business conversations around diversity. Funny but serious.

Accessibility Toolbar