Westpac launch of DDA Action Plan

Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM,
Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner
24 July 2001
Sev Ozdowski

Thank you, Dr Morgan, for the invitation to attend this launch of the Westpac Disability Discrimination Act Action Plan. I am most pleased to formally receive a copy for the Commission to register.

Dr Morgan, Westpac colleagues, members of the Accessible E commerce Forum, ladies and gentlemen, this is an important day for Westpac and its customers and employees. The completion of your Action Plan makes a very clear and public statement about your commitment to breaking down the barriers that have existed for people with disabilities in the banking and finance world.

Those barriers have both excluded people with disabilities from being able to take advantage of the benefits and convenience banks have to offer, and severely limited the opportunities for expanding your customer base. Successful implementation of your plan has every chance of addressing both these problems.

Over the past five years the Commission has received several hundred Action Plans from all levels of government, educational institutions, small local businesses and large national and international organisations and I am pleased to say the numbers are growing steadily.

An Action Plan provides organisations with an opportunity to identify the barriers that exist in their services and systematically remove them in a timely way. In doing so an organisation both reduces the likelihood of successful complaints of discrimination, and contributes to the achievement of a fundamental objective of the DDA - that of full and equal participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of our social, political and economic life.

One of the things we have found at the Commission in our many dealings with organisations developing Action Plans is that their chances of successful implementation rely heavily on the most senior levels of management taking ownership of the plan and understanding the full value of achieving change.

Dr Morgan's personal involvement in this launch indicates the chances of its success are high.

Time after time we hear people say that the actual development of the plan is in itself an important part of the education processes necessary to change organisational attitudes and focus on new ways of doing things.

Reviewing the accessibility of your services; consulting with service users and those that cannot access your services; searching for solutions and negotiating timeframes for removing barriers often result in a change in culture in an organisation even before a plan is implemented.

I could not illustrate this change more clearly than Dr Morgan did in his opening comments when he said: 

"We set out to address the gaps in our programs, but now I think we are moving towards energetic, self-motivated innovation"

Having looked at the Westpac Action Plan I am confident its implementation will greatly contribute to the removal of barriers to traditional services, and lead to significant innovation in the e commerce environment in which we now live.

Apart from all the activities designed to eliminate barriers to existing services Westpac is committing itself to a number of strategies that are particularly worthy of note.

1.  First is the commitment to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities at Westpac. Apart from the Paralympic Employment Program Westpac has put in place a series of strategies designed to ensure the skills and experience of people with disabilities are fully recognised in recruitment processes.

2. Secondly, there is a commitment to establishing mechanisms to ensure representative organisations of people with disabilities and older Australians are consulted with on the development of new services and products.

3. Thirdly, there is a recognition that people with disabilities and older Australians may need information, training and guidance on how to actually use the emerging technologies available. The seminars described by Dr Morgan are a vital piece of the jigsaw necessary to make accessible banking a reality and I welcome the commitment made by Westpac to expanding this program.

This launch of the Westpac Action Plan is taking place on the same day as the Accessible E commerce Forum meets and I must acknowledge the very important work members of that Forum are undertaking.

The Forum's main job is to sponsor co-operative partnerships to address the recommendations made in the Commission's accessible e commerce inquiry of last year.

The most important initiative arising from the Forum has been that of the Australian Bankers Association which, in co-operation with the broader financial services and information industries, community groups and government agencies is developing a number of industry standards in the areas of ATM's, EFTPOS, Telephone banking and Internet banking.

Westpac is also supporting this very exciting work through the ABA and I am sure it will assist you in achieving your goals. 

Thank you again for the invitation to receive this Action Plan and, in acknowledgement of your commitment to ensure equitable access to your products and services for people with disabilities, I would like to present you with this certificate of recognition.