Tuesday, February 20, 2018

How to address Social Inclusion

Currently my art exhibition is showcasing at the Drawing Point Gallery (Ipswich Arttime Supplies) 203 Brisbane Street, Ipswich CBD. My hope is that me current exhibition will be a platform for a discussion on how to build a community that celebrates  diversity and actively works towards a community that is inclusive or all.

Social inclusion occurs when every member of the community is considered of equal standing. Social inclusion is not living along side each other. For social inclusion to occur the needs to be relationships that are on equal footing.

This doesn't not occur for many Australians and residents including our Indigenous Australians, refugees and people with disabilities. Above all these Australians do not have equal rights under the law. Until this occurs it is impossible to relate to each other on an equal standing.

Just as the are many misconceptions about immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees who come to Australia, the community as a whole does not fully appreciate he skills and the abilities of people with disabilities and many assumptions are made rather than members of the community taking the time to find out the facts.   

Many marginalised Australians feel voiceless!  

This is why people with disabilities and their families launch the 'Every Australian Counts' campaign. To date the largest achievement of this campaign is the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, known as the ndis.  The ndis provides assistance to individuals and families living with disabilities to fully participate in the life of community. Participation involves being active, passive co-existence is not inclusion.

More specifically it aims to build participation rates in education; employment and the government sector. 1 in 5 people in Australia have a disability and the majority of disabilities are invisible. Regardless of the type of impairment 90% of people with disabilities or underemployed. 

To achieve full social inclusion people with of various disabilities need to equally represented in every section of the community. To ensure this target is achieve we need to make our community accessible to all our members.  This includes our school, work places, transport systems, local business, employment and training, sporting organisations, shopping centres, public amenities, higher education, cultural venues, all levels of governments and government departments and finally the legal system. 

Working towards inclusion involves a multi-layered approach beginning with public educations programs to bring community awareness about disabilities; correcting the many misconceptions around people with disabilities themselves; equality under the law; addressing access issues and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This means we all have a role to play. Many of these issues can commenced through business, organisations, community groups and governments developing their own Disability Action Plan.  For these plans to be most effective they should refer to the UN charter of human Rights for People with disabilities and the The 1992 Disability Act.

A Disability Action plan recognises it is not the persons impairment that leads to their disability, but the way we have structured our society, making our communities in accessible to some members.  

When I started working in the disability arts sector, access was about building access, toilets, car parking, lighting and signage.  Since commencing Ignite Artists I have learnt that issues around communication, access to information, IT and technology, sensory and behavioural needs and more.

I was involved in the development Ipswich City Councils Disabilities Action Plan . We live in a beautiful historical city and we would not want to tear that up to address physical access issues, but we can legislate to ensure all new buildings are accessible. Inclusive buildings are more accessible to those with injures and the elderly. However physical access can also address the need for low sensory areas and install hearing loops and braille signage. 

Developing a plan can assist you to identify access issues for your employees, clients and customers. Building structures and expenses are ligament barriers that may mean that all issues can be addressed.  What developing a action plan can do is:

  •  Demonstrate a commitment to change.
  • Allow you to identity access issues. 
  • Prioritise how you will address access issues.
  • Introduce you to the concept of disability awareness.
  • Address low cost access issues
  • Contribute to community discussions on inclusion.
  • Provide a starting point for change. 

Who should develop a Disability Action Plan? Any one who does business in the community, even if you are self-employed. 

Even I have a Disability Action Plan for my small business Ignite Artists. A plan may address: access issues for people with disabilities (remember access can be physical, intellectual, lack of information, in accessible formats and sensory overload); employment - recruiting people with disabilities; providing disability awareness training for your staff. 

The Action Plan  process is similar to any best practice approach to business. It will fit comfortably with your business objective of ensuring continued commercial success. The components are:
  1. Review your practices
  2. Devise policies and programs to eliminate disability discrimination
  3. Set goals, targets and time frames
  4. Devise and incorporate evaluation strategies
  5. Appoint persons to be responsible for the implementation of the Action Plan
  6. Communicate the Action Plan to people within your business

Together we can build an inclusive community.

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