Disability Discrimination Act Action Plans: A Guide for the Tertiary Education Sector

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is a piece of Commonwealth legislation which creates a new context for service provision. The Act requires that people with disabilities be given equal opportunity to participate in and contribute to the full range of social, political and cultural activities. Access for people with disabilities, including access to the goods, services and facilities provided by tertiary education institutions, can no longer be an after-thought. The DDA is not about limited or 'parallel' access, but promotes and protects equality of access - physical, informational and attitudinal.

Action Plans have the capacity to produce the systemic change which is required to eliminate disability discrimination whether it be direct, or unintentional and indirect. Through an Action Plan, a tertiary education institution may reduce the risks of having complaints made against it under the DDA. An Action Plan will also assist a tertiary education institution better to meet its objective of providing high quality educational services to the whole community, of which people with disabilities constitute over 18%.

Providing a copy of your Action Plan to the Australian Human Rights Commission will be a bold statement of your institution's commitment to equality of opportunity for all.

The tertiary education sector has initiated many reforms in recent times to make education more accessible for people with disabilities. Tertiary education institutions have been the first Australian organisations to provide Action Plans to the Australian Human Rights Commission under the DDA.

We commend this guide to you, and look forward to the tangible advantage which will result for the whole community as people who have disabilities are able to benefit from and effectively contribute to the educational, social, cultural, political and economic environment in which we all live.

Contents

1. Introduction
2. How to develop an action plan
3. Summary
4. Glossary
5. Appendix 1: Checklist
6. Appendix 2: Examples
7. Appendix 3: Legislative requirements for action plans
8. Appendix 4: Relevant sections of the DDA
9. Appendix 5: the Commission's DDA resources

1. Introduction

What is an action plan?
Who may develop an action plan?
What disabilities should be covered by your action plan?
How an action plan can assist your institution
Action plans and employment policies
Action plans and people from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-english speaking backgrounds

What is an action plan?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate in the provision of goods, services or facilities (including all services and facilities provided by tertiary education institutions) against people on the basis that they have, or may have, a disability. It also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis that one of her or his associates has, or may have, a disability.

The DDA states that organisations may develop Action Plans to eliminate discriminatory practices and that these may be given to the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission).

An Action Plan is a strategy for changing those practices of tertiary education institutions which might result in discrimination (intentional or unintentional) against people with disabilities. An Action Plan will help your institution to identify these practices and offer a blue-print for change.

An Action Plan must include certain components - these are listed in section 61 of the DDA (see Appendix 4):

  • a review of current activities;
  • devising of policies and programs;
  • goals and targets;
  • evaluation strategies;
  • allocation of responsibility; and
  • communication of policies and programs.

This guide deals which each of these requirements in turn.

Who may develop an action plan?

Action Plans may be developed by any 'service provider'. This term includes anyone who, or any institution which, provides goods or services or makes facilities available, with or without cost. It applies to:

  • educational institutions;
  • Commonwealth and state government departments and agencies;
  • Local government;
  • organisations and businesses in the public and private sectors; and
  • individuals.

All institutions which provide educational services including child care centres, schools and universities, colleges of technical and further education, apprenticeship and trade schools and private educational institutions, are covered by the DDA.

This guide is specifically designed for tertiary education institutions. The Commission may in the future produce additional guides to assist other educational sectors.

In developing an Action Plan an institution is asked to focus on its role as a service provider. For tertiary education institutions this includes the provision of lectures, information distribution, access to classrooms, examination of students, publication of newsletters, and the operation of theatres, food and bar services and sporting facilities. It also includes all services funded by the institution, including child care and student medical services.

What disabilities should be covered by your action plan?

The Act uses a very broad definition of `disability' and covers disabilities which are physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory and neurological. It also covers physical disfigurement and the presence in the body of an organism capable of causing disease, such as HIV.

The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of a disability that she or he has now, once had, may have in the future or is assumed to have. It also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis that her or his associate (partner, carer, friend, family member or work colleague) has a disability.

How an action plan can assist your institution

Minimise discrimination and avoid complaints
Encourage broader participation
Boost prestige and maintain high levels of demand
Meet government expectations

Action Plans are not just about complying with another Commonwealth government requirement. Implementation of an Action Plan can produce many benefits for an institution. Through implementation of a Plan your institution can:

Minimise discrimination and avoid complaints

The right to access services, including education services, without discrimination is a basic human right possessed by all people including people with a disability. Tertiary education institutions have, in many ways, led the way in promoting these rights.

Where people experience unlawful discrimination they may make a complaint to the Commission.

The implementation of an Action Plan will make it far less likely that an educational institution will inadvertently practice discrimination in the first place. A successful action plan can, in a sense, act as an insurance policy against DDA complaints.

Of course, not all discrimination is unlawful. The DDA states that discrimination will not be unlawful where, for example, the elimination of all discriminatory practices would impose 'unjustifiable hardship' on a person or institution. Development of an Action Plan will ensure that, in the event a complaint is made, the institution concerned will already have considered complex issues like 'unjustifiable hardship'.

When deciding whether an alleged act of discrimination is unlawful, the Commission is required by the Act to consider any Action Plan which may have been prepared by the respondent. Tertiary institutions may wish to present their Action Plan to explain the context within which the alleged act of discrimination took place.

An Action Plan will not of itself be conclusive proof that unlawful discrimination has not occurred, but the Plan will certainly be considered relevant.

Encourage broader participation

The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics information (1993) indicates that some 3.2 million people, or 18% of all Australians, have a disability (up from 15.6% in 1988). When applying the definition of 'disability' which is used in the DDA (which is much broader than the one used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics), this figure is significantly greater. When the relatives, friends, carers and colleagues or associates of people with disabilities are added, this group represents a sizeable share of the Australian population of potential students, the talents of which the tertiary education sector should not ignore.

An Action Plan will encourage people with disabilities to use your institution's services, and your student population will become more reflective of the broader Australian community.

Boost prestige and maintain high levels of demand

Students want to study at reputable tertiary education institutions.

As a public statement about commitment to practices which eliminate discrimination, an Action Plan will boost the prestige of your institution - not just within groups of people with disabilities, but within the broader community as well.

There are many indicators of success as a place of learning, but one important indicator is student demand. The success of an institution will also be marked by the extent to which it serves the community - and people with disabilities are an ordinary and integral part of the community.

Meet government expectations

Where institutions are supported, even in part, by Commonwealth or State government departments, there is likely to be additional pressure to comply with the DDA. The DDA requires that government departments ensure compliance in all public programs, including funded programs.

Action plans and employment policies

The DDA's Action Plan provisions target educational institutions as service providers, rather than as employers. While it is not essential for Action Plans to include employment reforms, it makes sense to develop your Action Plan in association with a review of employment policies and practices.

The Commission has produced a range of materials to assist people to understand the DDA, including a guide to assist employers comply with the DDA. The Disability Discrimination Act Employment Manual - Developing Best Practice is available from the Commission's Publications Officer for $25 (see Appendix 5).

Action plans and people from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-english speaking backgrounds

People with disabilities from an Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-English speaking backgrounds often encounter additional barriers in attempting to access services. Access is made difficult not only because of the person's disability, but also because services are not offered in a way which is culturally and/or linguistically appropriate.

Tertiary education institutions have developed significant expertise in ensuring cultural sensitivity in service provision. This sensitivity will also be an important requirement of any initiatives to make your services more accessible for people with disabilities.

Tertiary education institutions will need to be mindful of these issues in developing an Action Plan.

2. How to develop an action plan

Review your current activities
Devise policies and programs
Goals and targets
Devise evaluation strategies for your action plan
Allocate responsibility
Communication

Your Plan will need to be tailored to meet the particular needs of your institution, but there are some 'musts' set out in section 61 of the DDA (see Appendix 4).

The steps set out below will guide you towards the development of a Plan which is not only responsive to the needs of your institution and the users of its services and facilities, but which satisfies all the legal requirements as well. The approach recommended in this guide is not mandatory.

In Appendix 2 there are some sample Action Plans to assist you to develop your own Plan.

Review your current activities

Collect information
Identify physical barriers which limit access to services
Identify communication barriers
Identify attitudinal barriers
Consider confidentiality
Include people with disabilities in the review process

The action plan of a service provider must include provisions relating to the review of practices within the service provider with a view to the identification of any discriminatory practices; DDA s.61 (c)

An institution must conduct a review (or audit) of the ways in which its current practices might obstruct people with disabilities from access to its goods, services and facilities. Obviously, an institution can't effectively plan for the future without knowing where it currently stands.

Tertiary institutions should consider the ways that participation by people with disabilities is prevented or limited. Participation can take many forms but it includes being able to enrol in courses, undertake studies, use campus facilities, participate in open days, provide information through student and community surveys, access complaints processes and nominate for appointed and elected offices. This information is essential if your institution is to remedy deficiencies in service provision.

The review will be an essential first step in assessing current performance level, identifying areas in need of change and developing realistic targets and goals. The information from the review will be essential for evaluation of your progress towards Action Plan goals.

A successful review will require old practices to be considered from a new perspective. For this reason it may be useful to have the review conducted independently.

Institutions can benefit greatly from utilising the expertise of people with disabilities in conducting reviews.

Your review will need to:

Collect information

You should, where possible, collect information to support your Action Plan.

Information may be obtained from student and community surveys, market research, staff and organisations representing people with disabilities.

Institutions should collect information about potential service users and the extent to which they currently deliver services to the general community, including students with disabilities.

Information on student profile data can be useful in identifying difficulties with accessibility. It can also be an excellent measure by which to assess improvements in making educational services accessible to students with disabilities.

For example, a survey of staff who work in the student enquiries section may indicate that they cannot recall a single instance over the last twelve months of providing services to a student with a disability. While many disabilities are not visible, the fact that no-one can recall serving a student with a guide dog or a mobility aid, a student who uses a hearing aid or who has a hearing loss, or a student who uses a wheelchair, suggests that the service may not be accessible for students with disabilities.

Identify physical barriers which limit access to services

Tertiary institutions should identify the physical barriers which restrict access to premises. To do this you will need to consider, among other things:

  • all the areas to which students should be entitled to have access, including all academic, social and sporting facilities;
  • physical structures such as doorways, steps and stairs which may act as barriers to people who use wheelchairs;
  • the existence of uninterrupted and safe pathways of travel around campus, including campus transport;
  • structures designed to deliver services, such as student information counters and electronic information systems;
  • signage which is confusing or inadequate;
  • decor which may be confusing or disorienting for people with disabilities affecting their vision;
  • non-visual guides to assist people to use campus buildings, including lifts with tactile buttons and floor announcements; and
  • emergency and evacuation systems, including alarms with both auditory and visual components.

 

Identify communication barriers

Identify how your institution communicates with people and ask:

  • could information produced by the institution be considered offensive by people with disabilities?
  • do you have a marketing strategy which ensures that people with disabilities learn about the range of courses offered and the extent to which premises and courses are accessible?
  • what provisions are made for making information available to all people who may want access to goods, services and facilities?
  • do you provide information in braille, large print or on audiotape for students and/or potential students who have difficulty with standard forms of printed information?
  • do you ensure information is exchanged through signing and other non-verbal means?
  • do you provide access to computer technology appropriate for students with disabilities?
  • do you ensure that videos or films produced or presented are captioned?
  • do you ensure that hearing loops are set up where appropriate to assist students with hearing disabilities?
  • do you ensure that information is presented to groups in a way which is user friendly for people with disabilities which affect their vision eg. by reading aloud overhead projections and describing graphs and pie charts?
  • do you ensure that staff are familiar with the technology and practices developed to assist people with disabilities including Telephone Typewriters (TTYs), hearing loops and sign language interpreters?

Identify attitudinal barriers

Tertiary institutions also need to consider the way any discriminatory attitudes held by staff may impact on service provision.

Where people with disabilities encounter attitudinal barriers, they may be discouraged from using your services. Alternatively, they may lodge a DDA complaint with the Commission.

Consider confidentiality

All people have a right to privacy. They have the right to access services without being required unnecessarily to disclose personal information. If this information is provided, your students have the right to expect the information will be treated confidentially. This is equally true of information about a person's disability.

Tertiary institutions will need to consider whether personal information is over collected and how the confidentiality of information may be protected.

Include people with disabilities in the review process

People with disabilities will often have had life experiences which enable them quickly to identify barriers to accessing services. This skill will be very useful in any review of current activities.

Devise policies and programs

Devise strategies to eliminate barriers
Utilise available expertise
Resource the action plan
Ensure the future of your action plan
Think about specialist services
Promote your action plan

    The action plan of a service provider must include provisions relating to the devising of policies and programs to achieve the objects of this Act; DDA s.61(a)

Devise strategies to eliminate barriers

Your review, which identifies the ways your institution excludes people with disabilities from becoming students, from carrying out the tasks of study once enrolled, or otherwise using your services, will enable you to develop strategies to make your services more accessible to students with disabilities. For example, improved campus signage (including use of tactile cues) may be a way of encouraging more blind people and people who have a vision impairment to use campus facilities.

Utilise available expertise

People with disabilities often have vast experience in dealing with discrimination and barriers to access. As a consequence, they will have a very useful perspective on practices which may discourage people with disabilities from becoming students or using your services.

As with any initiative, you will want to make use of existing expertise in the development and implementation of an Action Plan. In developing, implementing and evaluating Action Plans, institutions should consult with and involve people with disabilities.

Resource the action plan

The costs of implementing an Action Plan need to be recognised as a legitimate expenditure and incorporated into current and future budgets.

Ensure the future of your action plan

Develop policy

Incorporation of the Action Plan into policy will ensure that the commitment to the Plan continues beyond the employment of a few key people, and will inspire public confidence that the commitment is real rather than transitory. Action Plan policy will:

  • demonstrate commitment to the Plan's objectives;
  • indicate the support of management for the initiative; and
  • legitimise the allocation of resources to the implementation of the Action Plan.

Consider mainstreaming

In the short term, it may be that an Action Plan will be a separate component of your institution's strategic plan. However, over time the Action Plan will become part of your general approach to forward planning.

The Action Plan will become less an independent strategy and more a thread running through all institution plans, including those plans relating to capital works and property management, academic programs, student needs, information technology, library services and activities organised through the student union and other campus associations.

Alternatively, the Action Plan may be mainstreamed from the outset. This will be a decision for each individual institution.

Develop an informed planning process

To ensure that your forward planning is done effectively, it is important that those involved in the planning process are informed about the function of an Action Plan.

Action Plans will need to include strategies for ensuring that future planners are made aware of Action Plan goals.s

Think about specialist services

Many education institutions have staff (such as Disability Liaison Officers) who focus exclusively on disability issues. This may be a useful model for other institutions. It is certainly the case that in-house expertise will be of invaluable assistance to an institution in the implementation of a Plan.

However, the establishment of specialist positions does not justify an institution failing to address systemic discrimination against people with disabilities. A Disability Liaison Officer may be part of a strategy to eliminate discrimination, but cannot be all of it.

Promote your action plan

If your institution is to reap the full benefits of having an Action Plan it will need to market the Plan effectively to current and potential students and service users. It will also have to involve people by offering them the opportunity to make suggestions about ways to improve the Action Plan.

Ensure Information is Publicly Available Access to the Action Plan and its implementation process will encourage a sense of ownership of the Action Plan among staff, students and service users. This sense of ownership, of having a stake in the success of the Plan, will encourage people to make contributions.

A copy of your Plan may be given to the Commission. The Commission may make the Plan available to other organisations as an example of an Action Plan. Providing an Action Plan to the Commission is a clear statement of your institution's commitment to non-discriminatory practices. By reporting on progress towards Action Plan goals, for example through annual reports, evaluation reports and audits, an institution can confirm and renew this commitment.

Establish grievance procedures

An effective grievance procedure encourages confidence in the Plan and facilitates feedback on ways the Plan may be improved. It may also be an effective way of preventing DDA complaints, through resolution of disputes at an early stage.Grievance procedures need to be publicised. They should be quick and efficient, free of charge, dealt with by management and capable of delivering results.

Goals and targets

Think about specific goals and targets
Set time frames

    The action plan of a service provider must include provisions relating to the setting of goals and targets, where these may reasonably be determined against which the success of the plan in achieving the objects of the Act may be assessed; DDA s.61(d)

Think about specific goals and targets

Without goals and targets, Action Plans will be much more about 'plans' than 'action'.

Without goals and targets, it will be difficult for your institution either to assess improvements in marketing your goods, services or facilities to people with disabilities, or to identify ways your Plan might be further improved.

Goals and targets should be specific enough to enable them to be measured. For example:

  • all lecture theatres and campus auditoriums to be made wheelchair accessible; or
  • all examination requirements to be reviewed to ensure they are non-discriminatory.

Back to Menu, Back to Develop an Action Plan, Back to Goals & Targets

Set time frames

Strategies designed to achieve goals and targets must also include time frames.

Without time frames, strategies are generally incapable of evaluation and your institution will have no way of determining if the Action Plan initiatives are effective.

Using the examples above, the strategies are greatly improved by the incorporation of a time frame:

  • all lecture theatres and campus auditoriums to be wheelchair accessible by 1999; and
  • all examination requirements to be reviewed within six months of the adoption of this Plan to ensure they are non-discriminatory.

 

Devise evaluation strategies for your action plan

    The action plan of a service provider must include provisions relating to the means other than [goals and targets] of evaluating the policies and programs [included in the plan]; DDA s.61(e)

Without evaluation you will have no way of determining whether you are achieving your goals or whether your implementation program is producing value for money and effort expended. Evaluation strategies should be developed in connection with goals, targets and time frames.

The success of an effective Action Plan may be illustrated by any number of changes such as:

  • greater use of services by members of the public who have a disability;
  • increased numbers of students with a disability;
  • higher levels of academic achievement by students with a disability;
  • observable changes in staff understanding of disability discrimination issues; or
  • improvements in the physical accessibility of campus buildings.

Make a date to review your Plan following any evaluations conducted, or just to reconsider your strategies in light of your experiences in implementing the Plan.

Allocate responsibility

Decide who will implement the action plan
Promote responsibility

    The action plan of a service provider must include provisions relating to the appointment of persons within the service provider to implement the provisions [of the action plan]; DDA s.61(f)

Decide who will implement the plan

As with any important initiative, smooth implementation of the Action Plan will require that clear lines of responsibility be established.

An Action Plan should involve the broad range of institution services, and the implementation of a Plan should involve people who are able to effect change across this broad range of services.

In large organisations, like universities or colleges, it may be appropriate to appoint people within each department to be responsible for implementing the Plan. These people could account to the person or group responsible for the overall implementation of the Action Plan. It is particularly important for large institutions, which may spread Action Plan responsibilities across a number of senior people, to maintain a system of overall coordination.

Information from students and potential students will also assist in the improvement of the Plan. To facilitate this feedback, contact details for the person or group responsible for implementation should be made public.

Promote responsibility

While the decision to develop an Action Plan must be taken by your governing body, implementation of the Plan will involve all staff.

All management position descriptions should specify that managers are required to implement the Action Plan. All other job descriptions should require employees to implement their Action Plan responsibilities.

Communication

    The action plan of a service provider must include provisions relating to the communication of [action plan] policies and programs to persons within the service provider; DDA s.61(b)

For the Plan to succeed a team effort will be required. In order that all staff appreciate the value of successfully implementing an Action Plan, as well as understand what they are required to do to ensure success, you will need to work out ways to communicate the Plan to staff.

Training in Action Plan responsibilities will need to be undertaken with all staff. The Plan will also need to incorporate strategies for encouraging current and future staff to undertake training.

3. Summary

The Action Plan process is similar to any best practice approach to running your academic institution. It will fit comfortably with your institution's objectives of pursuing academic excellence, maintaining a viable and prestigious place of learning, and ensuring that all your goods, services and facilities are accessible to all members of the community. The stages are:

  1. review your current institution practices;
  2. develop policies and programs;
  3. develop goals and targets;
  4. devise evaluation strategies;
  5. allocate responsibility; and
  6. develop communication strategies.

4. Glossary

Alternative assessment: Means of assessing a student's knowledge of an area (and eligibility for an academic award or progression through a course) which accommodates the student's disability. For example, an oral examination in place of written examination for students with a mobility disability affecting their capacity to write.

Alternative formats:Information presented in formats other than the standard printed form. Alternative formats include presenting information on audiotape or on computer disc (in various formats), in large print or in braille.

AUSLAN/sign language: Official non-verbal (signed) language of the Deaf community of Australia.

Closed captions: Written messages which appear on a television or movie screen and which represent the program's auditory messages (primarily dialogue) in written form. Closed captions are revealed through special components of electronic technology (televisions, videos) which are optional with most commercial brands.

Commissioner: A Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission. Commissioners are responsible for the promotion and implementation of human rights legislation. Some Commissioners are responsible for promoting the objects of a particular Act. For example, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner is concerned primarily with the administration and promotion of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). A Hearing Commissioner is responsible for determining complaints after a formal hearing (having heard evidence from both complainant and respondent and relevant witnesses).

Complainant: Person or organisation lodging a complaint of discrimination with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Conciliation: Process following lodging of a complaint of unlawful discrimination whereby staff of the Australian Human Rights Commission bring complainant and respondent together to see if the complaint can be settled without the need for formal hearing. The usual requirement that conciliation be attempted may be dispensed with in certain circumstances.

Disability: A condition or state of being which is covered by the broad DDA definition. The term includes physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual and neurological disabilities, physical disfigurement and the presence in the body of organisms causing or capable of causing disease, such as HIV - the virus which causes AIDS.

Discrimination: Treating a person less favourably (on the basis of a disability that that person has, may have, used to have or may have in the future) than you would treat a person without that disability in the same circumstances or circumstances which are not materially different. Discrimination may be either:

  • direct discrimination - treating a person less favourably because of their disability, such as a policy that people with infectious diseases may not enrol at a particular institution;or
  • indirect discrimination - imposing a requirement or condition where that requirement or condition is one with which people with disabilities are disproportionally unable to comply, which is not reasonable having regard to all the circumstances and with which a complainant with a disability is unable to comply. For example, a student with a mobility disability which affects her capacity to write, may argue that an institution requirement that all students write their responses to exam questions unassisted is indirect discrimination. There are alternative ways of assessing a person's knowledge of an area and this requirement may not be reasonable in the circumstances. It is certainly one with which the student is unable to comply and one with which students with disabilities will be disproportionally unable to comply.

 

Hearing loop/audio loop:Magnetic field which helps prevent external sounds from interfering with intended auditory messages within a given space. Loops are set up in particular rooms or auditoriums to facilitate hearing by people who use a hearing aid.

Australian Human Rights Commission ('the Commission'): A Commonwealth statutory authority responsible for administering a number of pieces of Commonwealth legislation relating to human rights and anti-discrimination. The Commission also acts as a decision making tribunal when matters cannot be conciliated - it makes these decisions after holding formal inquiries.

Peak Disability Organisations: Organisations representing groups of disability organisations. Peak organisations often liaise with government in relation to disability issues.

Print handicap: A term used to describe a disability affecting a person's capacity to access printed information, including a vision impairment or dyslexia, and physical disabilities which affect the ability to hold or read printed material.

Respondent: Person, organisation or institution alleged in a complaint to have unlawfully discriminated against a person.

Service provider: Any person, organisation, government department or agency which provides goods, service or facilities to the public, for free or at a cost.

Telephone Typewriter or TTY: Device attached to a telephone line which allows callers to communicate by typing messages which are instantaneously seen by the person at the other end of the line.

Unjustifiable hardship: Basis upon which a respondent can defend a complaint of disability discrimination. The respondent might successfully argue that not to discriminate would impose upon him/her/it an unjustifiable hardship. In determining unjustifiable hardship, the Australian Human Rights Commission considers all the circumstances of the particular case, including the benefits and detriment to relevant persons, the effect of the relevant disability, financial circumstances and any Action Plan given to the Australian Human Rights Commission by the respondent.

 

Appendix 1: Checklist

How does your institution collect information about current and prospective students and other members of the community who may seek access to your goods, services and facilities?

What physical barriers need modification to encourage people with a disability to use your services?

How can you change communication practices to ensure that all people may have access to your information and provide information to you?

Are staff allowing their own discriminatory practices to impact on the provision of services? How might this problem be addressed to ensure you provide a quality service?

Will you include the expertise of people with disabilities in identifying barriers to access and in developing and implementing your Action Plan?

Have you determined ways to evaluate your progress towards Action Plan goals?

Are your goals and targets achievable?

Have you set time frames to ensure your goals and targets are effective?

Has the institution allocated sufficient resources, priority and authority to ensure the successful implementation of your Action Plan?

How are you going to inform and educate staff about their role in implementing your Action Plan?

Have you devised strategies for publicising your commitment to your Action Plan?

Does your institution have a procedure that addresses complaints?

Has your institution incorporated long term planning and evaluation strategies into your Action Plan?

Appendix 2: Examples

Example one: Commonwealth University
Example two: Nutonian Business College

These are sample Action Plans only. They cannot be substituted for following the steps outlined above. Educational institutions will need to develop Action Plans which reflect their specific resources and structures.Educational institutions named in the following examples have been invented by the Commission for the purposes of illustration only. Any likeness to an actual institution is accidental and unintended.

Example one: Commonwealth University

Commonwealth University (CU) is a newly established University in Brisbane. It is governed by a University Council and consists of twelve departments, most departments comprising a number of schools. There are 8,000 students enrolled in the University.

The Council decides to set up a Disability Discrimination Action Plan Team (DDAPT) to identify whether existing practices limit access to the university's goods, services or facilities for people with a disability, and to develop an Action Plan to ensure the elimination of this discrimination.

The Council directs that the DDAPT be chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, and that it comprise the Academic Registrar, Disability Liaison Officer, a nominated representative from each department, the Dean of Students, Senior Architect Planner and representatives from the Students' Union. The Vice-Chancellor is nominated to approach people with disabilities to assist in the process.

Review current activities

Collection of information

The project team undertakes student, staff and community surveys to investigate the ways in which people with disabilities access CU services. It also commissions market research and considers information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The project team also seeks information from particular people, including members of the University's Students With Disabilities (SWD) group. Discussions are held with local disability peak representative organisations.

Efforts are also made to collect information from prospective students through schools, pre-enrolment procedures and local disability organisations.

The Research indicates that a very small percentage of students with a disability are enrolled at the University and that less than half of all pre-enrolment enquiries from people with disabilities result in actual enrolment.

Identification of physical barriers

  1. The majority of campus buildings are accessible to people who use a wheelchair.
  2. Lecture Block A extends over three floors and only the ground floor is accessible.
  3. Lecture Blocks D and E are not accessible for people who use a wheelchair or another form of mobility aid.
  4. Lecture Blocks B is accessible only at the rear of the building and this is indicated only by a small sign adjacent to the block's main entrance.
  5. None of the laboratories have benches or equipment comfortably accessible to students who use wheelchairs.
  6. The University bar is inaccessible.
  7. There is some parking reserved for people with disabilities, however these spaces are not evenly distributed around campus and are frequently used by people who do not have a disability.
  8. The Students' Handbook does not include physical access information.
  9. No University advertising literature features physical access information.
  10. There is extensive sign posting around campus. However, these signs have no tactile cues and hence cannot be used by blind people. The colour schemes used on signage could be improved to make them more visible for people with a vision impairment. Some buildings are not sign posted.
  11. Most lecture theatres and tutorial rooms are brightly lit with a decor comprised of contrasting colours. This assists in the use of premises by people with a vision impairment. The decor in Lecture Block C is, however, black and grey with subtle lighting.
  12. The result of this scheme is an environment which is too dark and difficult for people with a vision impairment to negotiate.
  13. Campus lifts do not have buttons with tactile cues and do not announce floors. Consequently, blind people or people with a vision impairment find it difficult to locate the correct floor.
  14. While all campus premises have newly installed fire alarm systems, no systems have a visual component and there are no policies covering the evacuation of people with disabilities.
  15. Information desks at the Student Enquiries Section and in the library are too high to permit easy communication with people using a wheelchair.
  16. Library shelving results in most books being inaccessible for people who use a wheelchair.
  17. Electronic information terminals found in the library and around campus cannot be used by people with a vision impairment.
  18. Wheelchair access from upper campus to lower campus is limited to two routes and lighting on both routes is inadequate making them unsafe at night.
  19. The university swimming pool is not wheelchair accessible.
  20. Residential accommodation on campus is generally inaccessible for people with disabilities.

Identification of communication barriers

  1. Some departments have TTYs, others do not. TTY numbers are not listed in the White or Yellow Pages, the TTY directory or the Students' Handbook.
  2. While most relevant staff know how to use TTYs, some do not.
  3. CU does not produce promotional information about its courses or facilities in anything other than standard print form - the university's entire advertising campaign is focussed on print media. This excludes blind people or people with a vision impairment or a print handicap. The exception is a promotional video distributed by the university, but this video does not include captions.
  4. Student loans are dependent upon complex print transactions. This precludes blind students or students with a vision impairment or a print handicap from using this service.
  5. It is not known whether any staff have AUSLAN sign language skills.
  6. University advertisements do not appear in any national publications which target people with disabilities. Other advertising does not refer to th accessibility of courses or facilities.
  7. Only two major auditoriums have a hearing loop installed and many lecturers indicate they would like more training in how to use this technology.
  8. There are no procedures for having lectures AUSLAN interpreted for Deaf students and the use of overhead projected information is limited.
  9. Course notes are not available in alternative formats.
  10. Few lecturers adequately describe printed information, such as charts and graphs, for blind people or people who have a vision impairment.
  11. Lectures are audio taped but these tapes are not usually made available until at least three weeks after the actual lecture.
  12. Systems set up to assist students with note talcers or exam writers are inconsistent across departments and inadequately publicised.
  13. The university does not possess any voice activated computers. and other computers are often not accessible.
  14. CU does produce information about its services in community languages, however there has not been consideration of the information needs of people with disabilities from non-English speaking backgrounds.
  15. CU does not have a policy on the information needs of people with disabilities from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background. The University does run some programs specific to these communities, however these are isolated and the principles underpinning these programs are not universally applied.

Identification of attitudinal barriers

The staff survey shows that:

  1. Staff are committed to the elimination of discrimination.
  2. Ten percent of university staff express that they are uncomfortable providing services to people with obvious disabilities and are unclear about the needs of students with disabilities.
  3. Five percent of all staff think that where people are accompanied by attendants, it is appropriate to address the attendant instead of the person.
  4. Of all official student complaints lodged over the last 12 months, twenty percent were made by students alleging they received inadequate service because of their disability.
  5. Thirty percent of sexual harassment complaints were filed by women who identified as having a disability.
  6. Staff are particularly concerned about providing services to people with HIV/AIDS and would lilce more information in this regard.
  7. Staff in the schools of medicine and dentistry are concerned about the transmission of infectious diseases from students to others.
  8. Staff are not satisfied that courses are sufficiently flexible to accommodate students with episodic conditions, including psychiatric disabilities.

Confidentiality

  1. The Student Records section does attempt to collect information about the number of students with disabilities. There is no provision for the anonymous collection of this data.
  2. Students with disabilities indicate concern that in disclosing their disabilities for the purposes of utilising certain facilities (such as assistance with note ta]cing or exam writing), they have no clear understanding of who may have access to this information.
  3. Staff in the schools of medicine and dentistry have openly canvassed the possibility of disclosing the HIV and Hepatitis status of students to relevant personnel at teaching hospitals.
  4. Applications for student loans include questions relating to disability.
  5. CU concludes that some of its current activities may contravene the DDA and there is a risk of a complaint being made against the University under the Act.
  6. CU comes up with the following Action Plan:

Commonwealth University action plan

a. Physical barriers

The University's building report will be reviewed to assess all CU premises for their accessibility. Modifications required to make premises accessible will be listed and this list will be forwarded to the University Council as soon as possible. The Council will be responsible for making decisions about which modifications are priorities, affordable and achievable, but will take advice from the DDAPT and University Architect.

CU will also allocate an amount per annum over the next three years to implement urgent changes as indicated by the priority list below:

    Year 1: fire warning systems will be improved; increased parking to be reserved for people with disabilities around campus;a large sign will be erected at the front of Lecture Block B advising that the building is wheelchair accessible from the rear;accessible benches and equipment will be installed as part of the refurbishment of the Biological Science Laboratory, and all future laboratory upgrades will include such adjustments;the university bar will be made fully accessible.

    Year 2: lift access to the Lecture Block A's second and third floors will be made available;lighting will be changed within Lecture Block C to make the space less dangerous for people with a vision impairment.

    Year 3: the already scheduled refurbishment of the library will focus on modifying shelves, compacters and service counters to ensure they do not act as barriers;accessible photocopiers will be provided in the library.

The Director of CU Student Housing Services will within six months convene a meeting of all providers of campus and student accommodation. A strategy will be developed for doubling the supply of accessible CU owned and operated campus accommodation within two years. This strategy will be provided to the DDAPT within six months of the date of the meeting.

Other residential colleges associated with CU will be asked to provide information to CU DDAPT within six months relating to the availability of accessible accommodation and plans for improving access to accommodation for students with disabilities.

All future refurbishment of CU owned and operated student accommodation will be carried out with an emphasis on equality of access for students with disabilities.

b. Communication

  1. TTYs will be installed in all department offices by December 1995 and all relevant staff will receive training in the use of TTYs by March 1996.
  2. All TTY numbers will be listed in the TTY directory, the White and Yellow Pages as soon as possible and in all University advertising and student resources, including the Students' Handbook.
  3. Staff with AUSLAN sign language skills will be encouraged to utilise these skills and to undertake training at University expense to maintain these skills. Staff interested in developing these skills will be encouraged to undertake training at the University's expense and will be notified of this opportunity through the next staff newsletter.
  4. The University's promotional video will be remade within two years and include captions.
  5. The University will review its advertising strategy within a year to ensure information is reaching people with disabilities. The Public Relations Officer will investigate the possibility of advertising in national publications which target people with disabilities and the possibility of noting the Action Plan in all mainstream advertising.
  6. CU will establish within three months an inter-departmental committee to consider the information needs of people with disabilities from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-English speaking backgrounds. The Committee will report to the DDAPT within nine months on changes which need to be made to ensure people with disabilities from these communities have equality of access to CU services.

c. Attitudinal

  1. Information about the DDA and people with disabilities will be provided to staff through their newsletter, commencing January 1996.
  2. The non-discriminatory employment policy will be affirmed by the Council at its next meeting and a statement to this effect will be incorporated into the next staff newsletter.
  3. Representatives of disability organisations will be invited to address a staff forum on disability discrimination issues within three months.
  4. Workplace training will be offered over the next 12 months to inform staff about rights and responsibilities which arise under the DDA, with staff to have received this training within two years.
  5. Management will, as a priority, collect and distribute information to staff about HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. This will be done by December 1996. The DDAPT will meet with representatives of the medical and dentistry schools within three months to discuss the need for further information and greater clarity in policy and procedure relating to students with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis A, B or C and other infectious diseases.
  6. Specific information on psychiatric disabilities will be provided to staff within six months. Additional training will be offered to staff within twelve months.

d. Confidentiality

  1. The Student Records section will review its practices within three months to ensure its operations comply with the CU confidentiality policy. Except where collection of disability information is related to the provision of services to a particular student. CU will collect disability data on an anonymous basis.
  2. Students will be provided upon request with a copy of the CU confidentiality policy and reference to this policy will be included in future editions of the Students' Handbook.
  3. Staff in the schools of medicine and dentistry will be provided with copies of the CU confidentiality policy within three months. The DDAPT will convene a meeting with staff of the school of medicine and dentistry and student representatives to discuss outstanding issues.
  4. The collection of information relating to disability in connection with credit applications will cease immediately.

e. Long term strategies

  1. Within three months, the University Council will pass resolutions:
  • committing the University to eliminating disability discrimination;
  • committing the University to resourcing the implementation of this Action Plan; and
  • affirming the right to equal access of people with disabilities to all the University's goods, services and facilities, and endorsing this as a fundamental philosophy to underpin all CU planning.
  • Members of the CU inter-departmental strategic planning team will be required to familiarise themselves with the DDA and the function of an Action Plan. Within six months, resources will be made available to assist the team to devise plans which comply with this Action Plan. Planners will seek advice from organisations representing people with disabilities where they are unclear about disability issues.
  • f. Communication and promotion of the Action Plan

    1. Copies of this Plan will be held by the University's Personnel Department and will be made available to staff upon request and free of charge. Staff will be advised of this through their newsletter.
    2. Copies of the Plan will be given to all department heads.
    3. Future editions of the Students' Handbook will include information on the CU Action Plan.
    4. A review of CU promotional material will be conducted within three months in order to assess how information on the Action Plan may be best distributed to prospective students and the broader community.
    5. Copies of the Plan will be available in alternative formats.
    6. Members of the community will receive a free copy of the Plan upon request.
    7. The Plan will be made available free of charge to students through the Student Services section.
    8. Feedback from staff, students and the community is welcome and should be directed to the Vice-Chancellor. Feedback will be acknowledged.
    9. The Plan will be given to the Australian Human Rights Commission within a month of its being adopted by the Council.
    10. Each CU Annual Report, starting 1995-96, will include information on progress towards Action Plan goals.
    11. Complaints about compliance with the DDA or Action Plan may be made to the Vice-Chancellor who will arrange for the complaint to be investigated by the DDAPT. Nominated DDAPT representatives will seek to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
    12. Copies of any complaints, and information on progress towards resolution, will be made available to the University Council at the first meeting following receipt of the complaint.

    g. Allocation of responsibility

    1. The members of the DDAPT will be responsible for overseeing implementation of this Action Plan.
    2. Overall responsibility for implementation lies with the University Council through the Vice-Chancellor.
    3. The Personnel Manager will ensure that all department head job descriptions are reviewed by December 1996 to include a requirement as follows:
    4. Department Heads will be required to oversee the implementation of the University's DDA Action Plan.

    h. Evaluation

    This Action Plan will be evaluated no later than March 1998 and the University will fund appropriate evaluation.

    Indicators of success will include:

    • an increase in the number of students with disabilities enrolling in the full range of CU courses;
    • an overall improvement in the level of academic achievement for students with disabilities;
    • a reduction in the number of official complaints from students with disabilities;
    • an increase in the utilisation of Student Services (including services relating to scholarships, Student Loans and accommodation) by people with disabilities;
    • an increase in the number of pre-enrolment enquiries about facilities and programs to assist students with disabilities;
    • a decrease in the number of staff indicating a need for more disability information and/or training;
    • greater accessibility of campus premises and facilities; and
    • other appropriate indicators.

    This plan will be reviewed by December 1998 by the DDAPT and recommendations for changes to the Plan will be made to the University Council at the next meeting.

    The Council will consider suggested changes within two months of receiving them and will make appropriate amendments to the Action Plan.

    The Council will also take this opportunity to consider the positive outcomes of the implementation of the Action Plan and will consider ways to publicise these results.

    Example two: Nutonian Business College

    Nutonian Business College (NBC) is a privately owned and operated business college in Tasmania offering courses in secretarial, administration, hospitality and computer services.

    The College is operated by a Board of six Directors who represent the majority shareholders in the proprietary limited company.

    NBC has been operating for three years and its current enrolment is 320 students. It employs ten part-time teachers. Following enquiries from potential students with disabilities about accessibility of services, the Directors decide to investigate the development of an Action Plan.

    NBC conducts a review in association with a commissioned consultant. The following issues are identified:

    • A number of design aspects of the NBC premises make access impossible for people who have a mobility disability.
    • Some classrooms are inaccessible to students who use wheelchairs because of stairs and steps.
    • Information about physical accessibility of premises has not been collected and cannot readily be made available to students seeking this information.
    • While all students are asked to complete pre- and post-enrolment questionnaires, no information is collected from students or potential students about whether or not they have a disability and what adjustments may be required to enable them to complete their chosen field of study.
    • NBC's confidentiality policies have not been reviewed since the College opened.
    • Some teachers have had experience in providing educational services to students with disabilities. No teachers believe that they have expertise in this area and most express a need for further information and for training.
    • NBC does not have a TTY.
    • NBC does not provide course notes in alternative formats although it has in the past recorded presentations by guest lecturers on audio tape.
    • NBC has a hearing loop installed in the main auditorium. There are no hearing loops in individual classrooms.
    • NBC draws most of its students from the local area. It does not have an ongoing relationship with any local disability organisations.
    • NBC's advertising is limited to the local newspaper and pamphlets which are distributed quarterly.
    • The Board is committed to making NBC's educational services accessible for students with disabilities but has not yet considered possible support services for such students.
    • Courses need to be made more flexible to accommodate students with episodic conditions including psychiatric disabilities.

    The Action Plan is prepared as follows:

    NUTONIAN BUSINESS COLLEGE INC.

    • An access audit will be conducted in association with a commissioned consultant with six months.
    • Physical barriers to access (and information relating to the costs of appropriate modification) will be considered by the Board of Directors within one month of this information being received from the consultant. This information will be considered in light of the fact that the lease on NBC's current premises expires in eighteen months and relocation is an option.
    • Physical access, including access to areas of practical and field experience, will be a criterion in the selection of future premises.
    • The 1996 Students' Guide will include information relating to physical access.
    • NBC will, by June 1996, review its confidentiality policy to ensure it meets the needs of students and staff. Any deficiencies will be addressed. In particular, the review will assess whether information relating to a student's disability is adequately protected from inappropriate use and/or disclosure.
    • The revised policy will be reproduced in full in the 1997 Students' Guide.
    • Enrolment forms will be amended to include a question relating to disability. Students will be invited, but not required, to disclose any disabilities they may have. This information will be recorded statistically on an anonymous basis. The enrolment form will refer to the NBC confidentiality policy.
    • Complaints relating to NBC's failure to accommodate a student's disability will be recorded as an independent category in complaints information forwarded for consideration by the Board of Directors. The Board shall receive this data in a non-identifying form.
    • Admissions staff will keep records of the number of enquiries relating to access and disability received from potential students.
    • The post-graduation evaluation form will include questions relating to accessibility of educational services for students with disabilities.
    • Teachers have limited experience in providing education services to people with disabilities. Training will be provided for staff to address this need at NBC expense. This training will be provided within six months.
    • NBC will install a TTY within one month. The TTY number will be included in all NBC advertising, will be listed in the White and Yellow Pages and TTY directory, and all staff will receive training in how to use a TTY within a month of installation.
    • NBC will investigate provision of course notes m alternative formats with immediate provision of information in large print. An amount of money will be allocated each year to cover costs of translating information into alternative formats.
    • Hearing loops will be installed in all classrooms within twelve months and staff will receive training on how to use this equipment within eighteen months.
    • future advertising will refer to the Action Plan, specifically physical access information. TTY details and other measures designed to assist people with disabilities.
    • NBC will advertise its services in local disability newsletters and on Radio PH (radio for the print handicapped).
    • NBC will investigate support services for students with disabilities such as assistance with note taking.
    • NBC will review within 6 months all courses with a view to ensuring that course requirements are sufficiently flexible to allow for the needs of students with episodic conditions.
    • NBC will liaise with local disability groups to facilitate elimination of barriers to educational services offered by NBC.
    • Staff will be invited to nominate for the new position of Disability Liaison Officer (DLO). The successful applicant will be provided with additional training as necessary and will receive a salary loading for her/his additional responsibilities. The DLO will be responsible for investigating difficulties being experienced by students with disabilities in accessing educational services.
    • The DLO will report directly to the Board of Directors on a bi-monthly basis.

    This Plan will be distributed to all staff and company shareholders.

    It will be made available in alternative formats upon request.

    A copy of this Action Plan will be given to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

    Within six months, a working group comprising representatives of staff, management and students with disabilities will review examination and assessment procedures to determine whether any of these unnecessarily disadvantage students with disabilities.

    This working party will make recommendations for changes as appropriate to the Board of Directors no later than November 1996.

    This Action Plan will be reviewed each year for the next five years.

    An amount will be set aside to fund an external evaluation no later than 1998.

    Evaluation will include consideration of:

    • information gathered through staff meetings and feedback from students;
    • any increase in the number of people enquiring about access for students with disabilities;
    • increased enrolment of people with disabilities; and
    • a decrease in complaints that NBC is inaccessible for students with disabilities.

     

    Appendix 3: Legislative requirements for action plans

    It is not a requirement of the DDA that service providers prepare and implement Action Plans. If, however, an institution decides to prepare an Action Plan, the DDA specifies that the Plan must include certain things.

    Disability Discrimination Act 1992

    Provisions of action plans:

    SECTION 61

    The action plan of a service provider must include provisions relating to:

    1. the devising of policies and programs to achieve the objects of this Act; and
    2. the communication of these policies and programs to persons within the service provider; and
    3. the review of practices within the service provider with a view to the identification of any discriminatory practices; and
    4. the setting of goals and targets, where these may reasonably be determined against which the success of the plan in achieving the objects of the Act may be assessed; and
    5. the means, other than those referred to in paragraph (d), of evaluating the policies and programs referred to in paragraph (a); and
    6. the appointment of persons within the service provider to implement the provisions referred to in paragraphs (a) to (e) (inclusive).

    Action plans may have other provisions:

    SECTION 62

      The action plan of a service provider may include provisions, other than those referred to in section 61, that are not inconsistent with the objects of this Act.

     

    Appendix 4: Relevant sections of the DDA

    SECTION 4

    "disability", in relation to a person, means:

    1. total or partial loss of the person's bodily or mental functions; or
    2. total or partial loss of a part of the body; or
    3. the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or
    4. the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or
    5. the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person's body; or
    6. a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or
    7. a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in disturbed behaviour; and includes a disability that:
    8. presently exists; or
    9. previously existed but no longer exists; or
    10. may exist in the future; or
    11. is imputed to a person.

    Part 3 - Action plans interpretation

    SECTION 59

    In this Part:

    "service provider" means a Department, a department of a State, a public authority of the Commonwealth, an instrumentality of a State, an educational institution or a person who:

    1. provides goods or services; or
    2. makes facilities available; whether for payment or not.

    Action plans

    SECTION 60

    A service provider may prepare and implement an action plan.

    Provision of action plans

    SECTION 61

    The action plan of a service provider must include provisions relating to:

    1. the devising of policies and programs to achieve the objects of this Act;
    2. the communication of these policies and programs to persons within the service provider; and
    3. the review of practices within the service provider with a view to the identification of any discriminatory practices; and
    4. the setting of goals and targets, where these may reasonably be determined against which the success of the plan in achieving the objects of the Act may be assessed; and
    5. the means, other than those referred to in paragraph (d), of evaluating the policies and programs referred to in paragraph (a); and
    6. the appointment of persons within the service provider to implement the provisions referred to in paragraphs (a) to (e) (inclusive).

    Action plans may have other provisions

    SECTION 62

    The action plan of a service provider may include provisions, other than those referred to in section 61, that are not inconsistent with the objects of this Act.

    Amendment of action plans

    SECTION 63

    A service provider may, at any time, amend its action plan.

    Copy of action plan to be given to Commission

    SECTION 64

    A service provider may give:

    1. a copy of its action plan; or
    2. any amendments to the plan; to the Commission.

    Commission to sell action plans to public

    SECTION 65

    The Commission is to sell copies of action plans or amendments to action plans given to it under section 64 to the public for a prescribed fee.

     

    Appendix 5: the Commission's DDA resources

    See the main Australian Human Rights Commission action plans page