In this entertaining video the late Stella Young talks about how we have been sold a lie about people with disability being ‘inspirational’ for just being themselves. She also argues that people with disability have been objectified in this process as being ‘special’ in some way and not counted as normal everyday people doing everyday jobs in an everyday world. On the topic of a positive attitude Stella says, “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.”
Why is some technology called “assistive” technology? After all, isn’t all technology assistive? It seems that any technology developed for people with disability is assistive, while other technology is just, well, technology. Technologies specific to disability used to be called “aids and equipment”, but we have moved on. Smart phones are everyday technology for most people. For people with disability they can also be an important part of a suite of technologies.
In Australia and other countries, access to assistive technology (AT) is not automatic. It has to be applied for and justified and then a budget assigned to it. Some people have to resort to charities for help. Imagine if you had to do this for cancer treatment. Denying and delaying access to AT comes at a cost. It’s a quality of life cost and an economic cost to the wider community. Instead of talking “cost” we should be talking “investment”.
The value of providing AT is documented in a global report. The research focused on four devices, hearing aids, prostheses, eyeglasses, and wheelchairs. They found that for every one dollar invested, nine dollars are gained. That’s a return on investment of 9:1.
If we include home modifications in the suite of technologies to enhance functioning and independence, we would no doubt find similar a return on investment. It would be a better investment if homes were universally designed in the first place. This is one study that recognises the benefits to the whole family, not just the individual. This is an important point. Most people with disability do not live alone.
The title of this important document is, The case for Investing in Assistive Technology. Replace the words “assistive technology” with built environment and housing and the report still makes sense. AT requires the rest of the world to be accessible and universally designed. That way, we can all benefit from people getting the AT they need when they need it.
The research was funded by several international organisations. The four AT items in the research are more readily available in Australia than other countries. But there is much AT that is not readily available when it is needed. Only a very small proportion of people with disability are eligible for the NDIS.
Everything seems more difficult when life is spiralling out of control. And when you can’t understand the forms and documents people are asking you to read, it gets so much harder. Going to court to sort things out is very stressful and even more so if you don’t understand what’s going on.
A new website called The Bumpy Roadwas developed with and for parents with intellectual disability. There are 32 fact sheets on interacting with NSW Community Services and the court system. They cover child protection, going to court, meeting with a lawyer, the role of an advocate and tips from other parents. Information is in Easy English and video format.Child Protection is a companion document. Much of the content will apply to other states.
Women With Disability Australia website hosts many Easy English publications. If you scroll down you will find Auslan videos among others. Scroll further and there are documents in Kriol, Torres Straight Islander Creole, and Warumungu.
Editor’s comment: I’d like to see Easy Read and Easy English standard for all organisations . Universally designed documents make so much sense for everyone. It gives an opportunity to get the key points and before looking at a more complex document.
We hear people talk about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), but how many of us have read it? It’s a big document and not easy to read. It covers every aspect of life and every person of every age. The UNCRPD matters to all of us. Eventually disability will touch each of us and our family members and friends. So disability rights are everyone’s rights. But not everyone can understand the way it is written.
The Easy Read version of the UNCRPD is a great way to get a grasp of the issues. This version by Enable is complete with illustrations. There is also a child-friendly version.
These documents make for handy ready reference for everyone without having to work through the UN document itself. You can access all documents through the UN website.
There’s also a great two-minute video from the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit. This is very useful for anyone wanting to get the disability rights message across, ay, in a training session or group meeting. Different people with disability each list a right that is within the UNCRPD. Nicely put together and easy to watch.
In the context of “leave no-one behind” the United Nations is keen to live the message of disability inclusion in its own operations. By implementing inclusive practice within its entities, the UN will be better placed to support Member States with their challenges in implementing inclusive practice. The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy spells out what needs to be done.
The Strategy covers all pillars of UN work. That means the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) is no longer a side event to everything else. Disability inclusion is already written into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Strategy was launched in 2019 and the 2020 report provides a first baseline of disability inclusion across the system. The report lays down concrete steps for improvement and to support Member Statesto implement the CRPD and the SDGs.
Mainstreaming is the key strategy for inclusion and empowerment. It’s about seeing people with disability as agents of change and not a vulnerable population.
There are 15 common indicators against which all UN entities will report annually. It covers leadership, strategic planning and management, inclusiveness, programming and organisational culture. Time to get real about disability inclusion.
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets out the obligations of signatories to the Convention. Australia is a signatory to this Convention. Each of the obligations are detailed in separate sections called Articles. There are 50 Articles. The General Principles of the Convention align with the Principles of Universal Design.
Article 3 – General principles
The principles of the present Convention shall be:
Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;
Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
Equality of opportunity;
Equality between men and women;
Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
Justice systems and courthouses are scary at the best of times – even when you haven’t done anything wrong. The processes and places are foreign to most of us. Interacting with the justice system is very stressful – even more so for people with any kind of disability. It’s the same for people who come from a migrant community.
There are ten principles, each with a set of guidelines for action:
Principle 1 All persons with disabilities have legal capacity and, therefore, no one shall be denied access to justice on the basis of disability.
Principle 2 Facilities and services must be universally accessible to ensure equal access to justice without discrimination of persons with disabilities.
Principle 3 Persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, have the right to appropriate procedural accommodations.
Principle 4 Persons with disabilities have the right to access legal notices and information in a timely and accessible manner on an equal basis with others.
Principle 5 Persons with disabilities are entitled to all substantive and procedural safeguards recognized in international law on an equal basis with others, and States must provide the necessary accommodations to guarantee due process.
Principle 6 Persons with disabilities have the right to free or affordable legal assistance.
Principle 7 Persons with disabilities have the right to participate in the administration of justice on an equal basis with others.
Principle 8 Persons with disabilities have the rights to report complaints and initiate legal proceedings concerning human rights violations and crimes, have their complaints investigated and be afforded effective remedies.
Principle 9 Effective and robust monitoring mechanisms play a critical role in supporting access to justice for persons with disabilities.
Principle 10 All those working in the justice system must be provided with awareness-raising and training programmes addressing the rights of persons with disabilities, in particular in the context of access to justice.
The picture at the top is from the Brisbane Supreme Court showing a large abstract mural behind the Judges’ bench. The picture at the bottom is an attempt to make the defendant dock wheelchair accessible.
Who does the designing and what do they design? If the design works, users don’t think about the designer. But when the design works poorly, or not at all, the designer becomes the focus. “What were they thinking?” is the catch-cry. In spite of much research and literature on designing thoughtfully and inclusively, we still have a long way to go.
A short paper takesa critical look at five design approaches from last century that remain current. The author discusses “Accessible” in terms of partial inclusion and design afterthoughts. “Inclusive/Universal Design” is discussed from the perspective of eliminating disability rather than embracing diversity. Six degrees of “User-Centred Design” is the focus of this design approach where users get a say in the design. An extension of user-centred design is “Participatory Design” which is also a learning experience for designers. Lastly, “Emancipatory Design” is praised for being empowering for people with disability.
Editor’s Note: The Universal Design movement is often accused of wanting to design out disability. Perhaps this view can be tracked back to the mistaken interpretation of universal as “one-size-fits-all”. The concept of universal design in the context of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is very much one of inclusion, equity and acceptance of diversity.
From the Introduction: The subject of design is one that dominates the disability literature. Throughout the past number of years, there has been a push among researchers and advocates to think critically about the ways in which design is executed and by whom. Design has taken on a central role in the ‘normalization’ of disability. Each of these design methodologies and ethos has had an essential impact on built and design environments; however, there is still a considerable need for progress. Importantly, these design methodologies and ethos bring to light the significance of understanding that in today’s society, it is normative that environments and technologies are designed for people with disabilities, not by people with disabilities.
Smart cities are talked about as a good thing, but can we be sure where they are leading us? This promised land with sustainability, connectivity and optimisation, might have a human rights cost. An interesting point from Amnesty International.
On the one hand we have a model for inclusive urban growth with jobs and green credentials. On the other, community groups say this as a contest between surveillance capitalism and democracy. This is the point ofan article by two tech peopleat Amnesty International.
The authors discuss the growth of smart cities and the Internet of Things. The connectivity of devices and people and the wonders of inventions seems like Utopia. But a lot of data is being collected and this is where the threat to human rights emerges. They argue that human rights must be put at the centre of development plans for smart cities. Otherwise the Big Tech companies will be empowered even more.
Who thought of footpath kerb cuts? 30 years ago policy makers couldn’t understand why anyone needed kerb cuts in footpaths. “Why would anyone need kerb cuts – we never see people with disability on the streets”. This is part of the history of disability rights that we rarely think about these days. But kerb cuts didn’t happen because of policy – they happened because people took matters into their own hands. And accessibility eventually shaped the streets.
Stories of activists pouring concrete on kerbs have made their way into urban legends. It is sometimes referred to as the “Curb Cut Revolution”. (Note the American spelling. In Australia we call them kerb ramps.) It was the beginning of a turning point for accessibility.
Of course, the injustice is not evident to those who are perhaps inconvenienced but not excluded. And it’s not just about wheelchair users. Anyone using a wheeled device: delivery trolley, pram, bicycle or luggage knows the value of the kerb cut. They’ve also benefited from the other accessibility features in the built environment. That’s how the term “universal design” was coined – good for wheelchair users, good for everyone.
Courts and justice systems across the world are going through a digital transformation. It’s happening behind the scenes and up front. But are these systems and processes inclusive? A survey in 2018 revealed that court administrators don’t know about the advances in inclusive solutions. With the current pandemic, reliance on technology has increased. So this matter is more urgent now.
Technology is making it easier for court staff. For example, their payment and filing processes. But we run the risk of making it more difficult for people who find themselves the subject of court processes. The survey by G3ict and International Disability Alliance revealed that people with disability face significant barriers in the justice system – digital and non-digital. As a result of this survey, G3ict has come up with an Inclusive Courts Checklist. It lists 10 Core Capabilities and related Enabling Activities.
The ten core capabilities include, a digital inclusion strategy, leadership, budgeting, and a culture of inclusive engagement, diversity and transparency. The checklist provides a short overview of the issues and the survey, and the checklist is presented as a table. The checklist is on the G3ict website where you can find more useful publications.
Elements of this checklist apply to other organisations that are moving to digital processes and practices. This checklist has a focus on people with disability, but could equally apply to people from diverse backgrounds and to people who have little or no experience of digital applications.