Supporting people with cognitive disabilities to access supported decision making in contracts for goods and services

This was the second session of the Advocacy Sector Conversations forum held on Zoom webinar for the first time, on 29 July 2020 (due to COVID-19  event restrictions not allowing large gatherings).


Overview

Yvette Maker, Senior Research Associate, Melbourne Social Equity Institute (University of Melbourne) is part of the research team who has been working with essential and basic service providers, people with cognitive disability, and their representative organisations to develop tools to promote the consumer rights of people with cognitive disability.

Yvette will provide an overview of the research and how it was used to developed guidance for retailers to make their processes and communications more helpful and accessible when contracting for services and solving problems during the life of a contract for essential and basic services. These include phone and internet, electricity, gas and water, banking and insurance services. The guidance incorporates human rights considerations including accessible communication and information, support for decision-making, and anti-discrimination.

 

 

Resources from this session can be found at the end of this post.

Transcript & Audio

MELISSA HALE:
OK.  Good morning everyone.  Welcome to the second session of our new look advocacy sector conversation for July 2020.  My name is Melissa Hale.  And I’m the coordinator of the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit.

Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

We are now living in a new world with a new normal due to COVID‑19.  Like all of you, DARU has had to review its program and the way in which we deliver our program to you.  We know that the disability advocacy sector, its supporters, people with disabilities themselves, and the community, and the government sector value the Advocacy Sector Conversations.  So we are pleased to be able to bring this to you safely and online.

We encourage your active participation today.  So please type your questions in the Q&A box and if at the end of the session, I will be facilitating a Q&A session with our presenter.  If you require closed captioning for today, please see the chat box and the link will be in there.

I hope you have all settled in comfortably ready with your blankets and slippers and warm cups of tea again for this next presentation.

I would like to introduce our second session of this series which is on supporting people with cognitive disabilities to access support and decision‑making in contracts for goods and services.  A team of researchers at the University of Melbourne has been working with essential and basic service providers, people with cognitive disability, and their representative organisations to develop tools to promote the consumer rights of people with cognitive disability.

They have developed guidance with retailers to make their processes and communication more helpful and accessible when contracting for services and solving problems during the life of a contract for essential and basic services.  These include phone and internet, electricity, gas and water, banking and insurance services.  The guidance incorporates human rights considerations including accessible communication and information, support for decision‑making and antidiscrimination.

Please welcome Dr Yvette Maker, senior Research Associate, Melbourne Social Equity Institute at the University of Melbourne.

YVETTE MAKER:
Thanks, Melissa.  And thanks, everyone, for tuning in today.  I’m really thrilled to have been invited to speak to you about the work we’ve been doing.

I live and work on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation and I pay my respects to elders past and present and to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people present today.

My plan is to speak for around 30 minutes and then have plenty of time for questions, comments and so on.  And I have a couple of PowerPoint slides, mostly with links in the note sections to different projects and reports that I’m talking about and I’m very happy for those to be shared around if they’re of interest and if you would like further information.

I’ve also got my email address on the final slide and always happy to hear from you with questions or suggestions for a future research directions of this work.

So as Melissa said, I’ve been invited to speak today about a program of research that I coordinate here at the University of Melbourne’s Social Equity Institute.  There are five of us on the research team and we come from different disciplines including consumer law, human rights law and policy, disability rights, social work and mental health law.  And the theme of the research is, essentially, access to essential services.

So things like electricity and gas, water, banking, insurance, phone and internet, and so on for people with cognitive disabilities.  So people who may experience or be perceived to experience difficulties with learning, processing, remembering, communicating information and/or making decisions.

And this large and diverse group of consumers has frequently been excluded from the consumer world, processes and practices are not designed with their requirements in mind, and more fundamentally, people with cognitive disability have been prevented from making their own decisions and entering contracts at all.

So sitting behind our initial interest in this topic were two developments at the local and global levels that have brought these issues of access and support to the front.  The first was the introduction of the United Nations Convention on The Rights of Persons With Disabilities in 2008.  And that emphasised that all people, regardless of diagnosis or impairment, must be recognised as legal persons who can make decisions, including legal decisions about entering contracts for services.

This doesn’t mean that everyone is expected to make decisions alone, so the convention recognises that decision‑making skills vary from person to person, and it specifies that people must have access to support, from family, friends, support workers or formal or informal sources to express their preferences, to weigh up options, communicate and make decisions.

And the second development was the Australian context was the introduction and rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and its intention to, among other things, equip more people with the resources, supports and services lived in the community which for some people involve setting up a home with utilities, phone, internet and so on.

It’s important for people to have access particularly to phone and internet so they can interact with the NDIA, with Centrelink and with other services.  So this is only becoming more and more of an issue.

And so today I’m going to talk to you about four related projects that we’ve done to develop resources, mainly for the providers or retailers of essential services to make contracting and problem solving for these services more accessible for people with cognitive disability acting either alone or with one or more supporters.

So we began back in 2016 with an initial study to explore the issues that consumers with cognitive disability experience at what we’ve been calling the front end of transactions, so the point of looking around for a service, choosing a service and then signing up.

And in that study, the research team interviewed people with cognitive disability, some consumer lawyers and advocates, and some representatives from industry about their views.  And so the people we spoke to pointed to many issues, and I’ve got them on this slide here, and these were really barriers and areas of difficulty in terms of access.

They included inaccessibility of product information, lack of access to suitable affordable products, communication barriers when contacting companies, and a lack of confidence to engage with providers.  And the participants in that study said that greater access to support for gathering and weighing up information, for understanding options, for deciphering often really complex terms and conditions, and for interacting with traders would be really helpful for improving customers’ ability to get the services that they need.

And so following on from that study we had some further discussions with the essential services sector, particularly people from telecommunications, electricity, gas and water retailers, and they talked about a range of related issues from the service provider perspective.  And these included things like being concerned about meeting the communication and support needs of a range of consumers without being or appearing to be discriminatory.

So, for example, where someone wants to contract for something expensive but doesn’t appear to understand the financial consequences of doing so. Those service providers were also interested in finding alternative communication pathways when customers appear to be in crisis, for example when someone’s water usage might have sky rocketed but they’re not answering the phone or responding to bills and other letters, and the companies were also interested in making sure bills are clear and easy to understand while also meeting their regulatory or legal obligations about the information that they are required to give to customers, and these legal obligations often work against accessibility.

So, for instance, the consumer code applying to telecommunications obliges phone and internet providers to put all of their important customer information in a two‑page document that’s called a ‘Critical Information Summary’.  And this seems like a good idea, fit everything on two pages but in practice it often means those two pages are very crowded and cluttered with information and they’re full of complex legal terminology.

And so the findings from this initial interview research and these discussions with service providers led us to conduct two follow‑on projects that focused on how essential services providers, retailers, could change their approaches, their processes and their communication.

This focus on the role of retailers took us into territory that hasn’t had so much… in terms of contracting and the exercise of other legal rights by people with cognitive disability.  So the guidance that previously had been developed has mostly looked at the role of consumers themselves and their informal or formal supporters, so family members, support workers, and so on.  Or it has looked at the role of governments in what they are obliged to do to make sure that people improving their ability to enter contracts and so on is recognised and supported.

So we were keen to look more at the role of business.  Firstly because there seemed to be a real appetite for change in the essential services sector.  So an awareness that things weren’t working well and that more could be done.

And secondly, because this focus on the role of providers is consistent with a human rights approach or a social model approach that emphasises the need for societies and communities to adapt to meet the needs of people with disability rather than requiring individuals to adapt or fit with the status quo.

And so we ran these two projects in 2018 and 2019.  And the first one ‑ I’ve got a slide here that has the front cover of the report from the first project and it’s called Thanks a Bundle.  That was funded by The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network Grants Program.

In that project we looked at the accessibility of online communications and support, so the websites of Australian phone and internet providers.  And in that project we first assessed the extent to which nine telecommunications providers’ websites met the requirements of consumers with cognitive disabilities, and service providers domestic and international obligations about this consumer group.

And so we were guided by the requirements in Australian laws and regulations including things like antidiscrimination law, the United Nations Convention, the World Wide Web Consortiums Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (and those are international standards of web accessibility for people with disability), and we also were guided by insights from existing research literature on accessibility and support measures for consumers with cognitive disabilities.

And so that’s things like accessible technology, the presentation of information in different formats, including Easy Read and video, and also previous research on models of supported decision‑making.

And so the purpose of analysing the websites against all of these criteria was really to survey the general state of play in the industry.  So not to name and shame specific providers, but to get a sense of what was already happening out there, and then, based on that, to develop detailed practical recommendations for suppliers to make their information more accessible for consumers with cognitive disabilities.

So we found that existing websites did have some features that were likely to facilitate consumers’ access to information about phone, tablet and internet services.  So some of these more positive features were things like web pages that had clearly marked links, that had lots of white space and text in high contrast colours, and web pages that had jargon‑free descriptions of product and service features, and easy to find information about things like low cost plans and devices.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the analysis also demonstrated many shortcomings or limitations of current online information and sales material, including things like web pages that are really cluttered with text and images, important information that’s hidden, hard to find, or very jargon heavy, inconsistent presentation of price.  So it was difficult to understand how much something would cost, use of very small font.

I’ve just got one little example in a screenshot of one website here.  I’m sure the website has since changed but this is what it looked like when we did our research.  And this is prepaid mobile plans and it’s got three columns showing three different mobile plans that are available.

And we found with big suppliers like this one they have multiple plans available that differ on many different dimensions, and so they’re often presented in tables like this, but with things like the same features of a different plan presented in different sized text or in different places in the table for different plans, the use of really small font.

so in these three columns we have small font at the bottom with information about how much data you get and what happens to that data at the end of the month, and inconsistency in what information is offered kind of as the headline or large text information.

Smaller suppliers with less offerings often did better on at least some of these dimensions just because they weren’t making such complicated offerings, essentially.

So, for example, I’ve got a screenshot here from one of these smaller suppliers showing a simpler table.  It’s got five columns with price along the top, between $10 and $50, the next row talks about the number of gigabytes of data you have included, and so on.

There still are some confusing things in here.  So there are buttons that say things like buy SIM or $2 SIM without explaining what a SIM is and why some cost $2 and some don’t.  We do have good features like large font, contrasting colours ‑ here it’s white text on a black background.  The same details on the same line as the detail to make it easier to compare your options and what’s included at different price points.

So we looked at all the different offerings on nine different websites ‑ and looking at all of these features.  And then based on these findings as well as consultation with two representative organisations of people with disability or mental health consumers. The first one People With Disability Australia and the second the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council.

In consultation with an expert advisory board we developed a toolkit of materials to help providers to make their websites and the surrounding information more useable for this consumer group and to improve the channels through which people could get additional assistance, if they found the website was not accessible.

The board included members from AFDO, the Australian federation of disability organisations, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Carers Victoria, office of the public advocate, Independent Mental Health Advocate and Voice At the Table which many of you would be aware of is an initiative funded by the Victorian government to make sure people with intellectual disability, acquired brain injury or complex communication needs are involved on boards, committees and other decision‑making bodies that affect them.

And so we had this sort of power house of knowledge to provide a lot of different perspectives and a lot of different relevant information that helped us to develop the toolkit.

The toolkit provides 12 recommendations for providers to make simple easy to implement changes to improve access and support to people with cognitive disabilities, as well as what I’ve got here on this slide, template, easy English or easy read facts sheets for customers on topics like shopping for a service, deciding if you can afford something and what to do if you have problems.

The set of recommendations for providers about improving their websites covered a range of matters.  And so most fundamentally and our first recommendation is the importance of consulting people with cognitive disabilities and their representative organisations when designing or redesigning layout and content.

And, of course, accessibility covers a whole range of matters that we didn’t look at in this project focusing on cognitive disability specifically.  So we emphasised here the importance of talking to disability organisations and people with disability about the range of accessibility requirements that people have.

Other recommendations included things like making web pages clear, easy to read and easy to navigate.  So, for example, things like keeping sentences short, using lots of white space, keeping web pages short and using links that are clearly titled and lead to logical places.

Our other recommendations covered things like offering information about products, services and assistance in easy English format.  As I’ve said, we offered some template facts sheets for developing some of that information, as well as using appropriate images to tell a story, ensuring multiple and varied forms of assistance are available for asking questions and for getting help, which as I said were often hidden or really hard to find on websites.

So that project really focused on information that you might use when you’re choosing, shopping for and signing up for a service.

And the second project that we did with industry around the same time, so 2018/19, looked at sort of further along in the process.  And that was for improving access and support for consumers with cognitive disabilities.

In this project we worked with the essential services industry to analyse their practices and processes.  So still when consumers are signing up for services but also when they’re solving problems or when they have issues.  And then from that we developed guidance for improving, again, access and support to consumers through all of these processes. And this work was coordinated by the Thriving Communities Partnership which is a collaboration of essential services providers who are aiming to improve access to services for all Australians.

And the project within that was funded by seven service providers.  And I’ve got their logos up on this slide.  It was Telstra, Energy Australia, Origin, city west water, south‑west water, Yarra valley water and AGL.  We worked with people here in the inclusion or hardship or vulnerability teams within those organisations.

And our goal for this project was to develop clear best practice guidelines for these service providers but also for all other essential service providers on recognising and facilitating support for people with cognitive disability at different stages of transactions.  So this was much more concerned with the processes retailers currently had in place or didn’t, and their current approaches to information and communication with consumers.

We again had an expert advisory board for this project who provided input and advice at each stage, and they included representatives from each of the retailers that we worked with, as well as the energy and water ombudsman of Victoria, the consumer action law centre and, again, people from voice at the table.

In this project we also worked with two focus groups of people with cognitive disability to workshop five scenarios and each one set out a situation where a consumer faced a problem or a decision, and then a series of suggestions for how retailers could more helpfully respond.

And these were based on stories that we’d heard from the retailers, from our advisory board members and from participants in our earlier interview study.  So I’ve got an example up on the next couple of slides of one of the scenarios that’s called Juan’s story.

risis and the bills are piling up.  Mail keeps coming but he can’t bring himself to open it.  Water bill was due a few months ago but he hasn’t paid.  The water company has tried to call him and sent him some letters but Juan does not answer the phone calls and his water company is not sure he received the letters.  

So then we presented to the focus groups these four ideas about improving things for Juan.

So the first one was a fairly particularly elegant solution that really appealed to a lot of the focus group participants and the people on our advisory boards, and that was to simply put the phone number on the back of the bill envelope.

So we talked about the kind of language you would use that might make it more useful for someone, so something along the lines of, “If you are worried about this bill or have any questions, please call us on this number.”  On the basis that this would make it easier to get in touch even if you do not open the mail.

Following on from that, the idea that the phone number should go directly to people who have been particularly friendly and supportive and focused on problem solving.  We also talked about alternative forms of contact like sending a polite text message that gives the contact number of the support team, and, again, we talked a lot about the language of those texts, things like a friendly reminder from water company that your water bill is due.  Call this number if you need help paying this bill.

And then the last one ‑ the last suggestion here was more for earlier on in the process, so around the sign‑up stage. And that was when Juan or when any other customer opens a new account, invite them essentially to nominate a support person. So to pick a friend, family member or some other supporter to be listed on the account and explaining that that should be someone that you’re happy to call the company if you can’t call yourself, or get calls or mail from the company about your account.

And so the focus group participants had all had some problems with electricity, gas, water, phone or internet companies along similar lines to the ones that we had raised in the scenarios. And they were mostly positive about our ideas for improvements to processes and communication, and they also made a range of additional recommendations that we incorporated into the guidelines.

So, for example, we talked quite a bit about the best way to list a supporter and some focus group participants talked about the importance of being able to choose how much control a support person could have on the account.  So, for example, they can make inquiries and pay bills but maybe they can’t open or close accounts.

So those sorts of nuances in terms of what would be useful and practical for people were really the kinds of things that we learned through the focus group process.

And so then we put all this background work together to produce two reports that, again, are available on our website.  I’ve got the front covers of them on this slide.  The first one is a research report which goes into more detail about the legal background and service providers’ obligations to consumers with cognitive disability, and we called that one ‘A Guide to Retailer’s.

And then the second one is a Top Five Tips Sheet which summarises the guidelines and is designed as a quick reference guide to be more useful for staff at essential services retailers, and so that’s eight pages long.

And while the project was focused on accessibility and support for consumers with cognitive disability, the guidelines really turned out to be about maximising accessibility for everyone.

Our capacity to understand and make decisions varies depending on a whole range of factors, and we’ve had feedback from retailers, consumers and regulatory bodies that the guidelines are likely to be useful for consumers in general, and that really, I think, is an important next step in terms of thinking of these things as being about universal design.  So designing for everyone in the first place, rather than these kinds of considerations being something that needs to be an add‑on, or a separate stream to standard practice.

So just to finish up, I thought I would show you the top five tips that we proposed to give you an idea of the details.

So the first one is:  ask all consumers if they need support.  And this addresses the question of how to make sure people get the right information and assistance without violating their privacy or raising concerns about discrimination.  And here we provide guidance about asking general, non‑disability specific questions to find out  what you need to assist a customer.  So things like do you want to take some time to talk to someone you trust, or we have some written information or videos that explains this in a different way, and so on.

The second one is to respect a person’s approach to decision‑making.  And this highlights the importance of treating supported decision‑making as the norm or the standard for everyone.  And so important things that we’ve set out here include having clear processes for consumers to list and include supporters in pre‑contractual and problem‑solving discussions, so to have someone else on the phone, for example.

And most fundamentally, making sure that everyone in these interactions is aware of supportive decision‑making principles including the consumers’ right to choose their own supporter, so not to have someone imposed on them, and to proceed on the basis of the consumers will and preferences and not the substituted views of someone else.

And in the longer report we go into more detail about the role of guardians and other formal decision‑makers, and talk a bit more about things like undue influence, financial abuse, and signs for businesses to look out for.

The third tip is to speak clearly and don’t rush.  So improving the capacity of staff to communicate with consumers and provide assistance in a clear and helpful manner was identified as something really important for consumers.  Particularly in terms of facilitating consumers’ decision‑making and their ability to solve problems if they’re having an issue with a service, for example.

And so this tip includes guidance on making communication more accessible, including verbal communication.  So things like asking people about their communication preferences, adjusting your communication accordingly and slowing things down, as well as guidance on checking someone’s understanding if you have concerns.

And this isn’t legible but just to give you an idea we also have this sort of checklist in the guide about tips to improving your communication and enhancing understanding.  So that’s all of these things about slowing down, about checking understanding, going to a quieter place, if you’re in a shop, for example, and a range of other matters there for communication.

And then the fourth tip is to make sure everything is accessible.  And here we reflect particularly on feedback from our focus group participants, that one really important element of accessibility that isn’t always remembered is that not everyone has access to the web or smart phones and not everyone wants or has the skills to interact and manage things online.

So we provide guidance about things like inquiring early on about the customer’s access to tech rather than assuming that they have it, and having work‑arounds like paper bills and payment over the phone available.  And, again, offering sales and contract information in a different format.

So, for instance, if you’re talking on the phone, offer to send the person the same information in writing.  This includes easy English documents, and we are starting to see providers offering at least some information in easy English format, which is a really great development., Although,, of course,, not useful for everyone, and not an end in itself, but a really important development here I think.

And then the fifth and final tip is about implementing company‑wide change.  So that’s about making sure that these things become sort of integrated as core business or essential elements of providers’ work.  And it’s about the fact that developing inclusive processes and practices is really a company‑wide exercise and it will only work if it’s treated as a company‑wide exercise.

So, again, we’ve got some high level recommendations about things like making sure everyone receives disability and mental health awareness training, including rights‑based training, and ideally this will be delivered by organisations run by and for people with disability.  And advice here as well about making sure a dedicated person or team is available and genuinely easy to reach for all consumers, including consumers who might require extra time, assistance and support.

So we launched these tips and the larger project at an industry workshop that was hosted by the Thriving Communities Partnership in the middle of last year.  And at that launch, self‑advocates Francesca Lee from Brain Injury Matters and from Scope discussed their experience with consumers and changes they wanted to see, and then practised putting the recommendations into practice using some of our hypothetical scenarios.

And we are hoping soon to go back to the organisations to hear how they’ve gone with putting these changes into practice and how they’ve been working for them.  So finally, this project has led us to other work that will hopefully increase the impact of the research that we’ve been doing.

So we’ve been working this year with the Essential Services Commission here in Victoria, who is the body responsible for regulating the essential services industry. And they commissioned us to develop more tailored guidance for the water industry about improving their processes and practices. And, again, we’ve developed quite practical guidance on process and practice changes, as well as some sample easy English templates of customer information and of bill explainers in collaboration with Scope. And those were launched last week and are available now on the web.

So I will leave it there.  I will be very interested to hear any comments and questions you have about the work we’ve done so far and also really interested to hear about the research questions that you think of that arise in this area so matters we might not have addressed yet.

Thank you so much.

MELISSA HALE:
Thank you very much for that.  Having clear information is vital for inclusive practice in business.  It never fails to amaze me how much retailers like to BAFFLE people with the detail.  I can imagine the increasing engagement with retailers in COVID‑19 time when people need more help.

We’ve had quite a number of questions.  I’m going to hand over to questions now. So first question…

QUESTION:
Are platforms like i Select and their approach considered as they already comparE?

YVETTE MAKER:
We didn’t look at those comparison websites.  I think they certainly have some advantages in terms of letting you compare things on key elements.  I don’t know how much more accessible they are in terms of how clearly they present that information.  But certainly hearing more and more that people do rely on those comparison websites.  So I think that’s actually something really interesting to look into.

MELISSA HALE:
Great, Thanks.  So…

QUESTION:
What is in place for identifying exploitation by decision‑makers and supporters, are people who take calls to resolve issues trained in this or at least have an understanding of this being a possibility?

YVETTE MAKER:
That’s another really good question.  And it was something that came up again and again in the projects that we were doing in terms of retailers being concerned about this. And THERE’S not really been a whole lot of detailed guidance available for retailers about how to identify those issues and then what to do about them if you did identify them.

So we do provide some guidance about that in the report but I think it is something that needs a lot more attention again.  And one issue in terms of that question of front line staff, and their role, is that the thing we heard from retailers again and again is that ‑ they have really high turnover of these front line staff.  Front line staff also have these sort of KPIs, or targets, that really mean they’ve got an incentive to go really quickly and some people go as fast as they can and not ask those questions.

So that’s a real tension in this work that we spoke about a lot during the project that I would be really interested to see how the companies are figuring out how to balance that.

MELISSA HALE:
Certainly a lack of face‑to‑face interaction would make this quite difficult and that’s going to be an increasing problem in these times.  So the next questioN?

YVETTE MAKER:
Definitely.

QUESTION:
How do essential service retail its efforts during the coronavirus pandemic to date rate against issues identified in the guidance documents?

YVETTE MAKER:
That’s a good question.  Again, I keep saying that about all the questions but these are all just live issues that keep coming up again and again.

We’ve seen certainly some industry activity around essential services and those kind of COVID‑19 responses.  So the energy charter, which is an industry body, has been producing information and certainly trying to think through some of those issues with not only access but also,, you know,, hardship and people suddenly finding themselves not able to pay their bills or having bills and so on.

The extent to which those are accessible is an open question.  I think the fundamental problems with accessibility that we find with a lot of websites and so on is not going to have been suddenly solved during the pandemic.  And it’s something that’s going to need a lot of attention in terms of the digital divide and the large number of people in Australia across various population groups who don’t have access to the web or access to the same extent as others.

And the flow‑on effects that this is going to have for things like solving their problems, and getting on to problems early, is something that really came up again and again and again in our work. It’s that the real problems for people arise when you can’t get assistance when you first start to have trouble.

So I think we are certainly seeing an appetite for essential services providers to work out how to do their outreach.  The Essential Services Commission and others have been doing work about that – what does it look like to do outreach right now – so work is happening, but it’s a difficult ‑ it’s undoubtedly a difficult time.

MELISSA HALE:
Yeah.  I think we will learn a lot from this as well.

YVETTE MAKER:
Right.  There could be some real positives, too, in terms of web based access becoming more normal which could be more accessible for a lot of people.  But again if accessibility considerations aren’t built into these changes, it’s going to just be different problems.

MELISSA HALE:
Absolutely.  So the next question is…

QUESTION:
Great work.  I notice you have not referred to universal design principles.  Is there a reason for this?

YVETTE MAKER:
Mostly just that I forgot to mention it.  We do talk about it in the reports as a really important element here in terms of, again, starting off at the beginning of all of these processes, of thinking about the full range of consumers and what they might require.

We see some ideas around human‑centred design or inclusive design, and a little bit of talk about universal design in this area, but it’s something that I think its time hasn’t quite come but it’s coming.  Universal design is mentioned in the UN Convention.  And that, I think, gives us a real opportunity to push that as an important accessibility ‑ an important tool for improving accessibility.

MELISSA HALE:
OK, great  Another question is…

QUESTION:
Thank you for the presentation.  Wondering if you have any ideas or recommendations for legislative reform in Victoria?

YVETTE MAKER:
Mmm.  That’s certainly something that we hope to do next with this work.

So focusing really, on processes and practices for the providers gets us to a certain point, but as I mentioned, from working with providers and from our own research, that a lot of their practices at the moment are, you know, consistent with the regulation, with the legislation, which then sets up this tension where making things more accessible potentially means that you’re not meeting your regulatory obligations.

So I think there’s certainly scope for reform, really simple things like just mentioning accessibility in the regulatory documents and setting out what that looks like and what it means. But also then assessing those regulatory requirements against these disability rights considerations. So not just accesses but disability rights more broadly to understand where things might not quite be working or might be, you know, intentioned or working against disability or other rights of enjoyment.

MELISSA HALE:
Yeah.  OK, so I will go to the last question before we wrap up.

QUESTION:
The changes suggested are great but what about cognitive problems with forgetfulness, inability to retrieve words, self‑organise and you have no friends or family members to act as supporters?

YVETTE MAKER:
Yeah.  This came up also in our research.  And I don’t think we have yet developed a comprehensive response to it.

It overlaps, in a way, with issues in the advocacy sector in terms of funding, because one thing that we really wanted to recommend and did recommend, to an extent, in the work was for companies to build good relationships with the advocacy sector so that those referrals are easy.

But if that means much higher number of referrals without adequate resourcing for the advocacy organisations, then obviously as we’re again seeing during the pandemic just real overload for these organisations and not enough funding and people, and so on, to do everything that needs to be done.

So that is,, again, another sort of point of  tension which I think partly is about relationship developing and thinking about these sectors as overlapping and needing to work together.  But that point of people who might be so‑called hard to reach, and so on, is a really tricky one that deserves further work too.

MELISSA HALE:
Yeah.  Absolutely.  It’s a tricky area.  So I think that’s all we’ve got time for today.  So thank you very much for your time today, Yvette, and the work you are doing is extremely important.  I hope more retailers take note of the guidance you have made and you continue doing the important work you are doing.  Thank you very much for coming.

YVETTE MAKER:
Thanks so much.

MELISSA HALE:
Everybody, thank you for your time today.  I’m sorry we couldn’t get through all the questions.  It’s a really engaging topic.

A lot of the questions were around whether the video, slides and resources will be available afterwards.  Yes, they will.  We will make sure that they are on the DARU website and we will have the slides, video and all the resources you need in a few weeks’ time.

So thank you for coming today.  It was great to have you all engage with us.  And, again, really important topic.

Thank you to Expression Australia for the Auslan interpreters and captioners for their hard work today.  Thank you to Show Division for bringing this production to you today.

Please stay safe, wear your mask, wash those hands and stay at home.  See you next time.

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Author:
DARU

Date published:
Wed 29th Jul, 2020