What’s a Disability Action Plan and why does a radio station need one?

Many Australian organisations and business, as diverse as AFL Australia, Government departments, and Lifeline are developing or implementing Disability Action Plans (DAP)  also known as an Accessibility Action Plan (AAP).

Those organisations realise they need to change what they do to be more fair, and to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (1992).  Your radio station might have older volunteers with mobility issues, or trouble reading documents;  you might have volunteers that have learning difficulties or low literacy; or you might have volunteers who have a disability you can’t see, like mental health issues or Autism.

A DAP outlines the concrete steps your radio station can take to implement changes to be more accessible, even if you don’t have a specific policy for access and inclusion.  As community radio stations abide by the Community Radio Code Of Practice, we have a shared commitment to increasing diversity and access, but sometimes we need to take concrete actions to reduce the barrier to certain groups to participation.  A DAP can help you do this.

Foe example, this one from the Wollongong City Council Disability Inclusion Action Plan

Flow diagram of the Council DAP contents repeated in text
Taken from the Local Government Association NSW https://www.lgnsw.org.au/files/imce-uploads/127/template-standalone-diap.pdf

2016-2020 shows specific activities and documents that action the WCCs commitment to inclusion, including  their vision statement, supporting documents including proposals to implement the plan, how they will decide to do this and be accountable, and projects including building an ‘All-abilities playground’, running an accessible festival, and constructing a ‘shared pathway’.

For a radio station, this might include concrete actions that specific individuals can do (which may not even cost you an money to implement) like:

  • Conducting a survey or all your volunteers for their accessibility needs;
  • Reviewing all your forms and documents for screen reader accessibility;
  • Reviewing your website’s accessibility using the Wave tool https://wave.webaim.org/ 
  • Adding some braille labels to your equipment;
  • Adding tactile ground surface indicators to your passageways that direct blind or vision impaired people;
  • If you have stairs or steps, planning and resourcing adding ramps;
  • are meetings held in a place with a lift, or no stairs?;
  • Is there a quiet place for stressed individuals to go, or support practices for new volunteers who are unsure about how to do things or take longer to learn?;
  • Is there a process for making suggestions and complaints? Does everyone know about it?
  • Assigning deadlines and people to complete those tasks.

You don’t have to try to figure it out on your own.  The Human Rights Commission provides advice, specifically for small businesses and organisations.

Developing a DAP starts with asking some questions about your organisation:

Human Rights Commission Checklist

  • How does your business collect information about actual and potential markets?
  • What can you do to collect more useful information?
  • What physical barriers need changing to encourage customers who have a disability?
  • How can you change communication practices to ensure that all customers may have access to your information and provide information to you?
  • Are any employees allowing their own discriminatory practices to impact on customer service? How might this problem be addressed to ensure that your staff provide a quality service?
  • Will the review of your business practices make use of the expertise of people with disabilities in identifying barriers to access and in developing the 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 have some meaning?
    Has the business allocated sufficient resources, priority and authority to ensure the success of the Action Plan?
  • How are you going to inform employees about the Action Plan and educate them about their role in implementing it?
  • Have you devised strategies for publicising your commitment to the Action Plan so that your business reaps all the public relations benefits?
  • Does your business have a complaints procedure that really enables matters to be fixed without the customer making a complaint to the Commission?
  • Has your business incorporated long term planning and evaluation strategies into the Action Plan?

Read more about the HRC advice here – https://www.humanrights.gov.au/disability-discrimination-act-action-plans-guide-business

See also: 

Australian Human Rights Commission – Disability Rights – action plans


Australian Network on Disability – What is an accessibility action plan?


Vision Australia: making docs accessible with the DAT tool

Sometimes screen readers used by vision-impaired people have trouble with digital documents.

Vision Australia’s Access Consultants Pierre Frederiksen and Leona Zumbo have developed a Digital Accessibility Toolbar that you can add to Word to help realise the dream!

“An innovation that revolutionises the ease and speed of creating accessible documents in Microsoft Word, the Document Accessibility Toolbar (DAT) supports individuals and organisations to embrace accessibility as ‘business as usual’ at no cost.”

Download it at this link:  https://www.visionaustralia.org/dat

Vision Australia have a full accessibility toolkit here: https://www.visionaustralia.org/services/digital-access/services/accessibility-toolkit



Help 3CR win an accessibility grant

Do you live within 5kms of 3CR radio in Melbourne? 

The Community Radio Accessibility Project is asking for your votes because, “The station needs up-to-date handrails, doors, ramps, taps and other things so that existing volunteers, new recruits and our wonderful guests can access the station more easily and safely.”

Pick My Project is a Victorian-first community grants initiative, with at least $1 million in funding available in each metro and regional area.
Now it’s time to vote!

VOTE HERE: https://pickmyproject.vic.gov.au/rounds/pick-my-project/ideas/community-radio-accessibility-project

Voting ends September 17, 2018


Argh! My website is invisible!

So you’ve made a kickass website for your radio show, podcast or station.  It does everything you want it to do.  But did you know that to some of your users your website could be invisible?  To others, your website might be confusing and hard to navigate because of cognitive disability or low literacy?

Infographic: Websites should be perceivable operable understandable and robustThe accessibility of public institutions is required by law, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.  While we are all familiar with the need to have ramps in our buildings, we are less likely to have considered if our web interfaces with the community are accessible.

Challenges to people with a disability in accessing web content can be visual, cognitive, motor skills or hearing-related.

1 in 5 Australians have a disability (ABS 2015).  Of the over 5 million Australians who listen to community radio, around 30% of them have a disability, while 11% of all listeners have a vision impairment or blindness.  In a 2012 survey, as many at 44% of Australians have low literacy, making everyday tasks that require reading and understanding difficult (ABS 2012).

According to a Vision 2020 report (2015) there are 575,000 people who are blind or vision impaired currently living in Australia.  Vision Australia predict that the number of Australians who are blind or have low vision will grow to 564,000 by 2030.

The blind use screen readers to access the digital environment, essentially reading aloud your web content to users, from top to bottom, with software such as NVDA or JAWS.  Screen readers are also used by some people with cognitive or learning disabilities who may find reading challenging, as an additional way to absorb content.

Unfortunately some web content is not compatible with screen readers, so is essentially invisible.

  • Flash animation, already invisible to iphones, is also invisible to screen readers;
  • Images with no “Alt” descriptions are invisible to screen readers;
  • PDFs that are heavy on graphics may be confusing or not easy to read by some screen readers;
  • Screen readers can also read in a variety of languages, so if you set the “lang” attribute incorrectly, it will read the text in the wrong language.  And probably not make much sense either;
  • Links that are not accessible by using the TAB key (hover-over menus and links);
  • Form fields that are not labelled properly;
  • CAPTCHA for preventing spamming of forms is inaccessible as it relies on graphics;
  • Tables for layout are a verbal nightmare for a screen reader;
  • Carousels or slideshows for images:  if they are fast or not stoppable, they can be unreadable even to sighted users, and invisible to users of screen readers;
  • Some widgets in WordPress and other CMS.

All these problems are easily fixed or avoided!

  • The simplest way is to choose a Content Management System that supports accessibility.  Joomla, WordPress and Drupal are generally pretty good according to Media Access Australia;
  • Alternatives exist to CAPTCHA, hover menus and other graphic based issues that are unreadable to screen reader users  eg.  This fix for image carousels https://www.w3.org/WAI/tutorials/carousels/;
  • If you can’t part with your graphics heavy version, you can make a basic html low-tech site alongside your fancy site with a front page link for screen reader users;
  • Get your users to test it!  If you have a blind or vision-impaired volunteer, why not seek their advice on what works for them?

For more detail about how a screen reader works with a website see https://webaim.org/techniques/screenreader/  In fact Webaim here: https://webaim.org/ is your most valuable resource when thinking about how to make your internet presence accessible.

Webaim have developed the WAVE accessibility tool.  Just type in your sites web address and it will tell you what does and doesn’t work (requires knowing some technical terms)  http://wave.webaim.org/

And Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines here:(ATAG) https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/atag/

The A11y Project (“A community-driven effort to make web accessibility easier”)  also offers this checklist for web developers that you can check off while editing your code (warning:  jargon and code!)  https://a11yproject.com/checklist    Also many other useful tools at this site for developers.

If it’s all too much for you, and let’s face it, web dev is highly technical and needs good attention to detail, you can find numerous services offering to help you become accessible for a fee such as Media Access Australia and others.


About the Author:

Kim Stewart is a Doctoral researcher at Queensland University of Technology and community radio producer at 4ZZZ.  She coordinates the Ability Radio Project, getting the voices of PWD onto the airwaves straight from the local community.

Ability Radio Project: https://abilityradioproject.wordpress.com/

Making documents accessible: printdisability.org

In my work as an advocate for PWD in community radio, I have heard many times from vision impaired and blind producers the need for documentation to be compatible with screenreaders.

The Roundtable on Information Access for PWD provides some great resources and services for organisations seeking to make their websites and documentation accessible to a diverse range of people.

They produce:

  • Guidelines for Producing Clear Print (2011)





Check their whole website here: http://printdisability.org/

Want to assess your orgs diversity? Equal Reality has made this free template survey

Take a look at this lovely visualisation by Equal Reality of the diversity of their workforce:


You can do an analysis of your own organisation using their template at the bottom of the linked page.

Find out how diverse your organisation is!

Universal Design for Learning: making learning accessible to everyone

Sometimes learning and teaching community radio can involve lots of text heavy reading materials (codes, rules and regulations, processes at the station).  For people with reading issues, who have a learning disability or are just out of practice, this can be hard work and presents a barrier to learning that can contribute to non-completion.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a guide to covering all the elements needed to engage learners of all kinds.  UDL sees learning and teaching as comprised of 3 elements:  engagement, representation and action.  By offering a few different ways for students to access those three elements, UDL makes learning more pleasant and effective for everyone!

UDL is widely used in learning environments where students have differing levels of capacity.  It gives students choices about how they receive information so they are able to choose the option most relatable for them.  This is particularly helpful for trainers where students may have a learning disability, such as dyslexia, cognitive impairment, or simply have been out of the education system for a long time.

There is lots of evidence to back up the effectiveness of UDL strategies:  see evidence here

Read about the guidelines here:  http://udlguidelines.cast.org/

Watch/listen to a video about UDL here: