Easy Read UNCRPD

Front cover of Enable Easy Read version of the UN ConventionWe hear people talk about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 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 CRPD 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 CRPD captures the key content in less words.

The Easy Read version of the CRPD is a great way for most people to get a grasp of the issues. This version by Enable is complete with illustrations. 

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 – see below. This is very useful for anyone wanting to get the disability rights message across, say, in a training session or group meeting. Different people with disability each list a right that is within the CRPD. Nicely put together and easy to watch. 

Beginning of the video. A man is standing in a large empty room that looks like a performance space.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has an overview of human rights on their website. 

UN Strategy for disability inclusion

Front cover of the UN report with icons for the four areas of action.In the context of “leave no-one behind” the United Nations is keen to live the message of disability inclusion in its own operations. 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 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) is no longer a side event to everything else. Disability inclusion is written into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN 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 States to 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.

The full strategy document is available on the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy website. A short video from the Secretary General is below. 

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets out the obligations of signatories to the Convention. Australia is a signatory to the Convention, and the obligations are detailed in separate sections called 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:

    1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;
    2. Non-discrimination;
    3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
    4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
    5. Equality of opportunity;
    6. Accessibility;
    7. Equality between men and women;
    8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

Equitable Access to Justice

This new courtroom has timber backed seats and a long timber desk that seats the justices. A abstract painting covers the wall behind the bench. Daylight comes in through large windows. We need equitable access to justice.
Brisbane Court Room

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. Equitable access to justice is yet to evolve.

The newly published guidelines for access to justice for persons with disabilities is available on the United Nations Human Rights web page. It gives the background and a summary of the consultation process. The title of the document is, International Principles and Guidelines on Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities. The document was developed in collaboration with disability rights experts, advocacy organisations, states, academics and other practitioners. There are ten principles, each with a set of guidelines for action.

Ten Principles 

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.

Brisbane court room showing the glass surround for the defendant dock and a short steep ramp to the doorway.
Brisbane courtroom dock

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 do designers design for?

Four women and one man sit casually around a table where there are coloured pens and drawings.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. So who do designers design for?

A short paper takes a 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.

The title of the short paper is, Design Methodologies and Ethos in Disability: Research Snapshot.

Editor’s Note: The Universal Design movement is sometimes accused of wanting to design out disability. Perhaps this view can be traced 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. 

 

Who thought of kerb cuts?

A concrete kerb ramp with yellow tactile markers on the slope.Who thought of kerb cuts in the footpath? 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 (curb 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. 

The Forgotten History of How Accessible Design Reshaped the Streets is a nicely written blog article. It provides an interesting context to what we know now as access standards. But compliance to legislation does not guarantee inclusion. It only provides access. That’s why we still need universal design thinking.

We still need universal design

The Universal Design Movement goes back to the 1970s and it’s still going. That’s because every improvement for inclusion is hard won. The article has a great quote:

“When injustice is tied up with the physical spaces of cities and the policies that create them, it becomes difficult to assign responsibility for it – and hence difficult to change.”

The article is from Bloomberg CityLab. 

Inclusive Courts Checklist

This new courtroom has timber backed seats and a long timber desk that seats the justices. A abstract painting covers the wall behind the bench. Daylight comes in through large windows.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.

 

Easy Read COVID-19

A poster with three graphics. One of a rugby goal post, one of a calendar with the start date marked, and one showing a television set.Access Easy English has fact sheets and posters on staying COVID-safe. As each state changes their rules a new fact sheet is produced. That makes a lot of fact sheets and posters. They cover sport, schools, travelling interstate, quarantine, childcare and more. 

Each state has its own set of fact sheets that you can download in both Word and PDF. Here are some examples:

Come to South Australia explains who can and who cannot go to South Australia.

We can go out. ACT explains when it started and the number of people you are allowed to meet up with.

The website also has information on Easy Read and Easy English on the home page. With more than 40% of the Australian population with low literacy skills, easy to understand information is vital for everyone. Even people with good literacy skills! 

 

What does Inclusion really mean?

“Inclusion” is a word used widely, but what do we mean by this? How does it happen? Who makes it happen? Given that we are not inclusive now, it has to be a futuristic concept – something we are striving for. If we had achieved it we would be talking about inclusiveness, and we wouldn’t be writing policies and advocating for it.

Picture of a slide with key points on inclusion.A conference paper discusses what we mean by inclusion and it illustrates why it is hard to achieve. The difference between inclusion and inclusiveness is more than semantics. They have different perspectives and ask different questions. Inclusion relies on one group looking at another group and inviting them in. It maintains a language of separation, for example, accessible, disabled, elderly and design-for-all. Inclusiveness looks at everyone equally and supports a whole population approach. Economic arguments and solutions are viewed differently. Inclusiveness is not a contest of rights and not one group giving something to others. All costs and benefits are measured from this perspective. 

The key concepts are captured in a PDF of a PowerPoint presentation and the full paper is titled, Turning Back Time for Today as Well as Tomorrow available on ResearchGate. 

Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kat Holmes discusses similar concepts. 

Universal design and talking human rights

A girl holds up a sign that says, Love not Hate. She appears to be sitting on the shoulders of someone in a public street march.Universal design isn’t just or only about disability. But it does have a major role to play in improving the lives of people with disability. The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, cites universal design as the way to gain inclusion and equity. So does Australia’s National Disability Strategy. But discussions and actions on human rights often get diverted by politics and ideologies. The way we frame and word our responses can make a big difference in cutting through. But what words and what frame?

A Brilliant Way of Living our Lives: How to Talk about Human Rights by Anat Shenker-Osorio has some good answers and examples. The first part of the document looks at messaging pitfalls and fixes. The second part of the document looks at words that work, and the third part covers common critiques. Here is Shenker-Osorio’s introduction to the document:

“Using language data from advocacy, opposition, political speech and popular culture, I analyzed why certain messages resonate where others falter in the human rights sector in Australia, the UK and the US. Complementing this written discourse were 53 interviews with advocates in these three countries in order to draw out what we wish people believed – the vision for which we’d like to inspire increased activation from present supporters and persuade new ones. Recommendations
here also draw upon previous research and empirical testing across issues related to human rights.”

This article was featured in a longer piece on The Commons Social Change Library. It covers a long list of issues for advocates for all kinds of social change.

Editor’s note:  It is worth noting the change in public attitude in the same sex marriage campaign. It gained momentum when it moved from the right to marry whoever you want to being about marrying the person you love. In that vein, universal design is about the people we love.

 

Christianity and inclusive education

The cupola of a Christian church.Supporting concepts of inclusion is one thing; putting it into practice is another. “The Challenge” is the title of a book chapter about including children with disability in Christian schools and giving them access to a Christian education. An interesting discussion about faith and inclusion using a case study to illustrate points. The discussion gives yet another voice to the inclusion discourse‍.

Abstract  Christian educators advocate that faith and learning should be holistic and integral to Christian education, but is this available for all students? The inclusion of students with disabilities does not have a strong record of implementation within Christian Schools. This chapter briefly recounts the history that led to the legislation mandating inclusion, and discusses the very real issues that concern teachers and parents today. The question posed is: should children with disabilities be enrolled in Christian schools? Responding in the affirmative, nine research-based strategies are described in detail, which provide solutions to the challenges faced in inclusive classrooms. Children with disabilities are capable of learning; and in order to receive a holistic Christian education they need to be included in Christian schools.

“The Challenge”, written by Marion Shields, is a chapter in Revealing Jesus in the learning environment:Experiences of Christian educators. It is open access. 

Design and Inequality

Front cover of the journal. A black background with an orange abstract design.The introduction to a special issue of Design Issues focuses on the way design can reproduce inequality in society. It asks questions such as: In what ways do designers or design processes emerge in relation to social inequalities? How can the discussion of inequality be broadened within design practices? This introduction discusses the rise of design and refers to different concepts and debates relating to design and designing. An academic journal asking important questions about the role of design in exercising power, creating accessibility, capitalism and consumption, cultural reproduction, oppression and neglect. An important contribution to the discourse on design.

The introduction is titled, On the Need for Mapping Design Inequalities, by Mona Sloane. Subscription to the full journal Design Issues is required to read the other contributions.

“This collection offers Design Issues readers insight into the
multi-layered connections between design and inequalities. All the
articles address issues that are both deeply sociological and acutely
concerned with design. They move across themes like the economy,
labor, gender, disability, politics, colonization, material culture,
class, and (social) policy. The essays clearly position themselves in
the context of design inequality by pushing for greater criticality
and reflexivity in design scholarship and practice.”

 

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