Inclusion, Human Rights and the Market

Graphic with four circles: one each for exclusion, separation, integration and inclusion.How can we attain our rights within a market-based economy, when those who do not experience social and economic exclusion have the the power of the market in their hands? The cost of inclusion is often said to “cost too much”. This is illustrated in the proposed changes to the NDIS. Cost is also the argument some states are using to stall the implementation of accessible housing. Human rights do not feature in these arguments. 

In Western societies, justice and fairness are not inalienable rights, but a negotiated process based on mutual advantage. According to Mutual Advantage theory we have to be pragmatic about human rights in a market-based economy. The excluded need to bring a benefit to the negotiating table. Rights get enacted only after a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out and “the excluded” are assessed as being “affordable”. That is, “can we afford to include them?”. This is the wrong question. It should be, “what does it cost to exclude people?” And who is listening to the position of the excluded? 

Market economists rarely reside in the excluded group fighting for rights. Measuring disadvantage and exclusion is not something they find easy to measure. Yet they do have a cost to individuals, society and the economy. 

For more on this discussion, see my paper from the 2014 Brisbane Housing Forum. The content is once again current. It includes an explanation of Mutual Advantage Theory by Lawrence Becker. 

PDF document Housing Forum Brisbane 2014  

Word document Housing Forum Brisbane 2014  

Reference: Becker, L.C., 2005. “Reciprocity, Justice and Disability”, Symposium on Disability, Ethics, Vol 116 No.1, University of Chicago Press, p 9-39.

The right to participate and co-design

A graphic of a group of people including a wheelchair user.How do you include people in decisions that will affect them when it’s not easy for them to participate? It’s a chicken and egg situation. So, asking people with disability to contribute takes more than a survey or a community meeting. It needs a much more thoughtful process. Janice Rieger has some thoughts on the right to participate and co-design polices and processes.

Janice Rieger discusses the issues in relation to the next National Disability Strategy. Her briefing paper is titled, Right to Participate: Co-designing Disability Policies in Australia. Focusing on process rather than the end product sets the framework to reach a shared understanding. Her three recommendations for co-designing in practice are:

      1. Focus on abilities not disabilities
      2. Employ expertise to help
      3. Value the importance of creative practice

Public sector co-designing is an emerging field of practice. It provides the opportunity for creativity and innovative ideas. Reframing participatory engagement through a social justice lens takes us towards a co-designing process. 

Editorial Introduction

“We are entering a new era in Australia as we envision a new disability strategy to replace the current national disability strategy (2010–2020). During this transition, we can reflect on and recognise the changing disability landscape in Australia and ensure that we create a just and inclusive Australian society. Recent consultations and reports have called for people with a disability to directly engage in designing the new disability strategy in Australia, but what does that entail, and how will the rights of people with disabilities be upheld throughout this process? This brief describes public sector co-designing practice—an emerging practice aiming to open up new trajectories for policy development through a co-design process and to provide best practice recommendations for the next disability strategy in Australia.”

Easy English and Bumpy Road

Home Page of Bumpy Road website showing nine coloured sections, each with a separate document.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 Road was 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.

Your Human Rights Toolkit is a bundle of four documents in Easy English.

Easy Read UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is also a good resource for getting a grasp of this long complicated document.

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.

Universal Design in Housing: Australia’s obligations

A graphic of four housing types: small house, town house, apartment block and multi-unit dwelling.Signing up to a United Nations (UN) convention isn’t just a feel-good affair. It actually brings obligations. That means reporting on a regular basis to the relevant UN committee. In Australia, the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department is responsible for government reports on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. But it isn’t all up to the government: people with disability must be involved. Their reports are known as “Civil Society Shadow Reports”. This is where the story gets interesting when it comes to universal design in housing.

Margaret Ward’s paper, Universal design in housing: Reporting on  Australia’s obligations to the UNCRPD, traces the reporting history specifically relating to housing. She writes that the Commonwealth Government has avoided action by doing nothing. Further, it has not adequately reported on this failure to act. But the story does not end here. 

This peer reviewed paper was written for the UD2020 Conference that was to be held May 2020, which is now to be held May 2021. It is published on the Griffith University publications website where you can find other papers for the conference. 

Abridged abstract:

The UNCRPD obliges Australia to embrace the concept of universal design as a guide for its activities. The UNCRPD triggered significant changes in the last decade directed by the 2010-2020 National Disability Strategy. This paper reviews Australia’s national and international reports on these obligations over the last decade. Both the Australian government and the housing industry largely disregarded the National Dialogue agreement, and misrepresented the progress made in achieving accessibility within the housing stock. The question remains whether a net benefit to society will be found to be of greater priority than the self-interests of the private housing sector and the political vagaries of government. Again, it will take the voice of people with lived experience and those who represent them to make the argument.

The Provision of Visitable Housing in Australia

A graphic showing facades of different styles of free standing homes in lots of colours. They look like toy houses.Margaret Ward and Jill Franz inspected eleven new dwellings in the Brisbane area. They found that none of the dwellings were visitable:

“In summary, when providing the eight features for visitability, the interviewees identified two themes for non-compliance (“lack of thought” and “otherness”) and three themes for compliance (“fashion”, “requirement’ and “good practice”). Although all dwellings provided some features, no dwelling provided a coherent path of travel necessary to make a dwelling visitable. Some examples of this incoherence were: a step-free driveway which led to a step at the door; a wide front door which led to a narrow corridor; and a narrow internal doorway which did not allow entry of a wheel-chair to a spacious bathroom. The provision of these access features separately and severally did not provide visitability as an outcome in any of the dwellings.”

The title of the article is, The Provision of Visitable Housing in Australia: Down to the Detail

Margaret Ward also delivered the Robert Jones Memorial Lecture in 2014 on this topic.

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 (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 UNCRPD is for everyone. 

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. 

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. 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 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.

You can read on overview on Global Accessibility News

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 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:

    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.

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.

 

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.”

 

Accessible housing: Who said what

House half built showing timber frameworkThe international Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disability asked Australia some important questions about accessible housing. The answers depend on who you ask. The Australian Government indicated it was doing OK. Australian Human Rights Commission said a lot more needed to be done, including regulation. The Australian Civil Society Report, which provides the perspective of people with disability, said aspirational targets by industry haven’t worked, so it has to be mandated. 

Australian Network on Universal Housing design has more detail and links to the various documents: Who said what to the CRPD Committee about Australia’s lack of accessible housing. Their webpage also has the latest on the Australian Building Codes Board and the Accessible Housing Options Paper. The call for tenders has closed for consultants to develop the Regulation Impact Assessment. 

Access to Premises Standard and existing buildings

A Westpac bank branch in NSW country town. It is a large old two storey house with steps to the entranceMichael Small’s Churchill Fellowship report tracks and compares discrimination laws and industry practice in relation to public buildings. He questions whether the control of the Access to Premises Standard is falling more into the hands of industry as Human Rights Commission resources are becoming increasingly constrained. Three of his recommendations are: that more training is needed for industry to help them understand the standards; more flexibility is needed for building upgrades; and better systems are needed for compliance enforcement and auditing. The title of his report is, Ensuring the best possible access for people with disability to existing buildings that are being upgraded or extended. The countries visited and compared are Canada, United States of America, Ireland and United Kingdom.