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 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.

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.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. 

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:

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.

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. 

 

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. 

Universalism: who does it serve?

A graphic showing tall buildings and trees set on an architect drawingRob Imrie and Rachael Luck discuss universal design from the perspective of how it relates to the lives and bodies of people with disability. Their philosophic offering is the introduction to a set of eight papers in a special issue of Disability and Rehabilitation. Some important questions are raised about the role of universalism and the embodiment of disability. For example, proponents of universal design say that users are crucial to the design process, but what does that mean for the skills of designers – will they be lost or discounted? Yet these are the people who have the power to use their skills “in ways where some social groups will benefit and others do not”. The focus of universal design is often on techniques and operational outcomes, but is this enough – are there other aspects to think about? Imrie and Luck provide a paragraph on each paper and conclude:

“The papers, as a collective, are supportive of universal design, and see it as a progressive movement that is yet to realise its potential. The contributors provide insight into the tasks ahead, including need for much more theoretical development of what universal design is or ought to be in relation to the pursuit of design for all and not the few.  This includes development and deployment of concepts that enable non-reductive conceptions of design and disability to emerge, aligned to political and policy strategies that enable universal design to become a socio-political movement in its broadest sense.”

The title of the editorial of the special edition of Disability and Rehabilitation is, “Designing inclusive environments: rehabilitating the body and the relevance of universal design”. Thought provoking reading for anyone interested in UD as a social movement as well as design thinking. There is more on their universalising design blog site.