EVENT: National Arts and Disability Strategy consultation d/l Dec 3

People with disabilities, mental health issues and organisations are invited to write a submission to the National Arts and Disability Strategy, deadline is December 3. https://www.arts.gov.au/have-your-say/national-arts-and-disability-strategy

You can fill in a survey, or make a formal submission.

Surveys here:

They have a discussion paper for you to read here:

Plus some useful research:

Alternatively you can email your completed submission to Arts.Disability@arts.gov.au or send it to:

National Arts and Disability Strategy
GPO Box 2154
Canberra ACT 2601

You can also make a submission over the phone. Call the Department of Communications and the Arts on 1800 185 693. You can use the National Relay Service to call. Find out more at relayservice.gov.au 

Is your station accessible? Some excellent checklists to find out

As I am fond of saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.  Thankfully when it comes to accessibility of our station buildings, documents and communications, others have done the work for us with these easy to use checklists:

  • AusCamps Association have made this fantastic resource for assessing access that includes background info on legislative requirements and suggestions for changes to improve access of marketing materials, signs and communication, emergency management,  public phones and transport, parking,  paths, buildings, doorways, stairs, ramps, floors, lighting, furniture, kitchens, bathrooms,  outdoor activities and more.  Very comprehensive and well laid out. Recommended. http://www.auscamps.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/FullAccessibility_Checklist.pdf




  • The Australian Network on Disability Event Accessibility checklist signals what to look for when choosing an event venue, making invitations, marketing and communications, wayfinding, room arrangement, audio-visuals, presentations and catering: https://www.and.org.au/pages/event-checklist.html




If you don’t have the time, think about paying for an accessibility audit.  The Australian Human Rights Commission recommends http://www.access.asn.au




Teaching yourself accessibility

If you want to create accessible documents, websites or digital newsletters for your community radio station, you might benefit from checking out these online courses.  Accessibility means making sure your content is available to as many people as possible, increasing audience, participation and social justice. Become an #A11y today!

Some free online courses:

Udacity have a 2 week free course:

Web Accessibility with Google: Developing with Empathy “In this course you’ll get hands-on experience making web applications accessible. You’ll understand when and why users need accessibility. Then you’ll dive into the “how”: making a page work properly with screen readers, and managing input focus (e.g. the highlight you see when tabbing through a form.) You’ll understand what “semantics” and “semantic markup” mean for web pages and add ARIA markup to enable navigating the interface with a range of assistive devices. Finally, you’ll learn styling techniques that help users with partial vision navigate your pages easily and reliably.” Free, 2 weeks.

Future learn 5 week free course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society “With a better understanding of users’ needs, technologies can be developed to be accessible & provide a more inclusive environment”

Some paid and subscription options:

Lynda.com (subscription only) has a number of accessibility courses :

  • Chad Chelius’ Creating Accessible PDFs shows you how to take an existing PDF and make it accessible: “When you make your PDFs accessible, it means adding tags, bookmarks, alt text, and other information that makes the files readable to users who are visually or mobility impaired. Using Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign, it’s now much easier to create valid, accessible PDF files. In this course, Chad Chelius explains why accessibility is important and what features an accessible PDF should include, before showing you two workflows for creating accessible PDFs: one in Word and one in InDesign. He also covers making an existing PDF file accessible using tools in Adobe Acrobat.”
  • Joe Dolsons WordPress Accessibility: “If you build a website with WordPress, build it with accessibility in mind. Making your content, themes, navigation, and other site features accessible helps everyone including visitors who want to find your site through search engine results. This course, merging WordPress coding with accessible web design techniques, helps you make sure your website meets modern accessibility standards. You’ll learn how to use the power of WordPress to quickly build a beautiful and accessible website that can be used by people with different types of abilities. Author Joe Dolson provides a broad introduction to accessibility and then focuses on practical steps to make sure your WordPress themes, plugins, and content are accessible and usable to all.”

Australian Professional certificate in web accessibility, 6 weeks starting in Jan 2019:

For those seeking a professional certificate to add to your CV, this fee-help course is for you. By Distance Ed at the University of Adelaide in collaboration with the Centre for Inclusive Design.

“Now you can gain an internationally-recognised professional qualification in web accessibility. The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility (PCWA). What sets it apart? The PCWA:

  • Is for everyone who wants to upskill, no matter where you are – students take the course from North America, the UK, Europe, South East Asia, Australia, and more.
  • Teaches the essential principles and techniques for achieving accessibility compliance.
  • Helps organisations meet obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act in Australia, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more, to not only reach more people more effectively, but to lessen the litigation risk resulting from inaccessibility.
  • Assists Government departments (and agencies or contractors doing Government work) to meet mandated accessibility requirements as outlined by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA).
  • Guides management on international best practice in accessibility, including adherence to the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and Section 508, etc.
  • Provides students with the opportunity to discuss, share, connect and interact with other professionals facing similar challenges.
  • Enhances your skills through learning from specialist lecturers and completing graded, practical assessments and validates your new-found expertise.
  • Gives you hands-on experience of how people with various disabilities access the web.
  • Enables teams to develop websites, apps and digital communications that work for more people, including the ageing population.

GitHub list of accessibility courses:

Free, paid, university, private colleges, webinars, certificates, and meetups of A11ys.

Lots of useful accessibility training links at GitHub

Words: How to refer to people with a disability

People with a disability are often described in the media using stereotypes. Stereotypes stigmatise groups who are depicted in this shallow manner and affect people’s lives. That’s why it’s important that we change the ways we talk about people with a disability to respect the person, and not make disability a focus of our attention. For community radio producers, we have the Code Of Practice to remind us to be careful about avoiding discrimination in our reporting:

We will not broadcast material that is likely to stereotype, incite, vilify, or perpetuate hatred against, or attempt to demean any person or group, on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, race, language, gender, sexuality, religion, age, physical or mental ability, occupation, cultural belief or political affiliation. (Code Of Practice s3.3)

Given this obligation, community radio producers need to attend to how their depiction of marginalised people might frame them as stereotypes. McRuer (2006) identified three main media frames that misrepresent the real life experiences of people with a disability: disability as tragedy, triumph over disability, and super-crip. Words are also a problem, especially as trends in the English language change so often. One of the great things about protest movements is their capacity to reclaim insulting and negative words for there own purposes.  Just as ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by the LGBTIQ+ communities, ‘crip’ is now common parlance amongst disability rights activists, declaring it is now it’s ‘hip to be crip’ and applying a disability lens to social and political issues as ‘cripping’ like the 2016 #cripthevote did during the US elections (Disability Visibility Project, 2016).

However, there are still lots of words that hurt and misrepresent, and some of them have a long pedigree in the news media.

Some research has examined what people with a disability think about the way they are depicted in the media. Johnson (1994) asked people with a disability what they thought of a range of words common used by news media to describe them. The words included “handicapped”, “disabled”, “wheelchair bound”, “victim”, “crippled”, “differently abled”, “handi-capable”, “physically challenged” and “person with a disability” (p.27). Few liked the term “handicapped” for its perceived reference to begging “cap in hand”, and that some had it imposed upon them by service agencies; but neither did they like “handi-capable”. The former was recognised as a word commonly used at that time in legislation.

“Disabled” was preferred for its lack of connotations of inability to function and that it was being embraced widely by the disability rights movement at that time, the typical way that social movements acquire nomenclature according to Johnson’s analysis (p.28). “Person with a disability” was perceived as putting the person first, although it was perceived as “awkward” to say with one respondent saying “journalists will never use it consistently due to length” (p.29). The claiming of terminology has a “liberating” function for one participant, who felt he was, “reclaiming my personhood from a society that had treated me as “less than” solely on how I walked”; Ten years later the participant was also comfortable with “disabled”…I am proud now to be  “a disabled person” …to have persevered” (p.29). Naming is a complex issue, but first and foremost it needs to be decided and claimed by the people it describes for it to be empowering.

Johnson notes that “physically challenged” gained ascendancy in the early 1990s amongst news writers, but people with a disability did not like the term, calling it “condescending” says Johnson, perpetuating the idea that disabilities are too confronting to deal with directly and need to be described by euphemisms and that the so-called challenges are actually problems that lie in the environment, not the person (p.31). A Google News search in September 2018 returned 67,000 results containing the term “physically challenged” in the title to describe a person with a disability, indicating it is still widely used by journalists.

Johnson notes that the phrase “wheelchair bound” was the subject of media activism by people with a disability in the mid-1980s, through appeals to publishers of style guides, and by directly ridiculing newspapers using it by sending them pictures of people chained to wheelchairs. But it remains persistent in the journalist lexicon, being used as recently as September 22, 2018 in the Sydney Morning Herald (O’Mallon, 2018), with 40 other occurrences globally on that day alone, according to a Google News search by the researcher. “Victim” has also been the target of activism, but remains in use in conjunction with disability in the media.

While media agencies like the Media and Arts Alliance, and the Australian Press Council make standards and codes, those paper tigers obviously aren’t affecting change if after more than 20 years, ‘wheelchair bound’ is still in use in the mainstream media. One  likely reason the Murdoch media still use sensationalist reporting of disabilities is because they sell papers to the curious, and as newspaper sales are in decline, we will see even more sensationalist ‘reporting’.

In 2017 Griffith University in Queensland began an advocacy journalism project Open Doors to improve the representation of people with a disability in the media by allowing journalism students to connect with people with a disability to help them gain a better understanding of the lived experience of having a disability (Valencia-Forrester, 2017). Read about that project at this link: https://projectopendoors.org/stories/

So what words are now ok?

To find out that, you need first to ask people with a disability.  If it’s in the context of an interview, ASK: how should I describe your disability?

Here are some substitutes:

Do say:

  • disability
  • people with disabilities
  • segregated school
  • seizures
  • needs
  • person with a spinal chord injury
  • person with autism
  • person with down syndrome
  • person of short stature
  • wheelchair user
  • has a learning disability
  • has a brain injury
  • blind, low vision
  • deaf, hard of hearing
  • intellectual disability
  • amputee, has limb loss
  • congenital disability
  • burn survivor
  • person living with (insert condition here)
  • post polio-syndrome, has (insert condition here)
  • service animal or dog
  • psychiatric disability
  • accessible parking
  • accessible toilet
  • ASK: how should I describe your disability?

Don’t say:

  • differently abled, challenged
  • the disabled, handicapped
  • special school
  • fits
  • special needs
  • cripple
  • autistic
  • mongoloid, retarded
  • midget, dwarf
  • confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair-bound
  • slow learner
  • brain damaged
  • visually handicapped, blind as a bat
  • deaf-mute, deaf and dumb
  • gimp, lame
  • birth defect
  • burn victim
  • suffers from polio (or any other disease)
  • Parkinson’s sufferer
  • seeing-eye dog
  • crazy, psycho, schizo
  • handicapped parking, disabled restroom
  • Rude to ask: What happened to you? because it’s none of your business


Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. (2008). Community Radio Broadcasting Codes of Practice Retrieved from HERE

Disability Visibility Project. (2016). #CripTheVote: Our voices, our vote. Retrieved from https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2016/01/27/cripthevote-our-voices-our-vote/

Johnson, M. (1994). Sticks and stones:  The language of disability. In J. A. Nelson (Ed.), The disabled, the media, and the information age. Westport: Greenwood Press.

McRuer, R. (2006). Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. New York: New York University Press.

Valencia-Forrester, F. (2017). About Project Open Doors. Retrieved from http://projectopendoors.org

List based on https://www.theindependencecenter.org/disability-etiquette-in-news-headlines/


Need accessible documents? Check out MSWord templates

In recent weeks I’ve been exploring the wonderful (and hitherto mostly unknown to me) world of accessible word documents. In MS Word, using document styles, headings and alternative descriptions (alt-tags) on images makes your document more readable for those using screenreaders, as well as more consistently formatted for everyone else. In addition, formatting for accessibility in word before creating text in websites makes the job of accessible website design simpler.  Accessibility checkers added to Word help you double-check it’s all ok.

I’ve written my entire doctoral thesis using the Vision Australia accessibility add-on for Word you can find at this link: https://www.visionaustralia.org/services/digital-access/document-accessibility-toolbar

But did you know there is an even EASIER way?   MS Word templates!  The templates demonstrate how you can have a design that is accessible and useful, as well as visually attractive.

Picture of Sampler cover:  Man with guide dog crossing roadThe Word “Accessible Template Sampler” includes:

  • Flyers
  • Agendas
  • Birthday invitations, cards and posters
  • Labels and business cards (if you want to go that extra mile with your business cards, you can get Braille ones from any of the business listed on the Braille Guide website here: http://brailleaustralia.org/finding-braille/directory/#books )

You can find a whole range of fully accessible Word templates trialed by people with a disability for use-ability here:  https://templates.office.com/en-US/Accessible-Template-Sampler-TM16402471

Word is also full of helpful advice on achieving accessible docs here: Link to accessibility advice on MSOffice site where they also have a Microsoft Disability Answer Desk if you have problems.

If you still have trouble, you might like to consider hiring Media Access Australia’s accessible document service here: https://www.mediaaccess.org.au/digitalaccessibilityservices/accessible-digital-communications/accessible-word-templates/

MSOffice also make accessible templates for Powerpoint! Find them at this link: https://templates.office.com/EN-US/accessible-template-sampler-TM16401472

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?


What is a Personal Action Plan?

So you want to change the way your organisation includes people with a disability, indigenous people, women or another disadvantaged group who need a voice?

A good place to start, according to Clements, Spinks and Phillips in the Equal Opportunities Handbook (2009) is by changing what YOU personally do.

Firstly, you need to learn about the group you are trying to help:  the authors note:

  • People who are disabled often face hurtful and offensive reactions from people who have little sensitivity or empathy. Empathy and greater understanding can help you avoid adding to such prejudice.
  • People who are disabled are sometimes made to feel they are intruding into the world of the able-bodied majority. This isolates them from the communities in which they live. It is the built environment (steps, narrow corridors, voice public phones, visual signs, etc) that has the effect of disabling people who have restricted mobility or have a visual or hearing impairment.
  • In the area of employment, people who are disabled face arguments that they are incapable of doing proper jobs, that their contact with the customer would lose sales or that it would cost too much money to alter working arrangements to meet their needs. In the area of education there is little effective provision for students who are deaf or blind and there are only limited arrangements to improve access for students who are wheelchair users.
  • Too often a person ’ s disability is all that able-bodied people focus on – they ignore the real person who is at the same time disabled. Many people wrongly assume that because someone is disabled they must also be unintelligent.
  • There are many ways in which you can assist a person who is deaf, blind or a wheelchair user, but first you should ask the person if they need and want your help – they may not.”

Social change is also deeply personal change, because it requires us to look at how we see the world and why we see it that way.

The next step is to develop yourself a Personal Action Plan by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How will the things I have learnt about disability change the way I think and act towards others who are different to me?
  • What has helped me to learn about myself with regard to:
    • my beliefs;
    • my attitudes;
    • my values;
    • my knowledge of others;
    • my behaviour;
    • my use of language;
    • my responsibilities;
    • the way I see the world?
  • How do I need to change in order to become:
    • fairer;
    • more sensitive;
    • more understanding;
    • less prejudicial;
    • less discriminatory;
    • better able to deal with people according to their needs?
  • If I were to change one thing about the way I act as a result of reading this what would it be?

(after Clements et al. 2009)

Phil Clements, Tony Spinks, Edward Phillips. (2009). Equal Opportunities Handbook How to Recognise Diversity, Encourage Fairness and Promote Anti-discriminatory Practice (5th ed. ed.). London: Kogan Page.