Improved consultation and harsher penalties: Centre for Inclusive Design to Disability Royal Commission

Centre for Inclusive Design (CfID) CEO, Dr Manisha Amin, fronted the Disability Royal Commission on Thursday, 15 December, and recommended governments and organisations need to understand how to consult with people with a disability to better meet their needs, and harsher penalties be applied as an incentive for them to be more inclusive in services and physical design.  

‘Knowing the experience of a person with disability is the only way to plan and design for a person with disability, especially when we consider new technology’, Dr Amin explained. 

CfID was invited by the Commission because of its work helping governments and organisations create inclusive and accessible policies, products, services, and built environments through consultation with communities most affected, including people with disability, particularly when addressing hard to solve issues and experiences impacting us all. 

In her address, Dr Amin said, ‘Currently, systems, environments, products, and services are predominantly designed by and for the people who make up the ‘majority’…this approach to design fails to consider the 18 percent of Australians   and 3.8 percent of First Nations Australians who identify as living with disability…these figures increase when considering people who have situational disability because of non-English speaking backgrounds or temporary disabilities like a broken leg or because of age…this is all of us at some point in our lives.  

‘The people who have the best insights to design a better society for the future for everyone are people who have been impacted and excluded the most in the present society…they are the canary in the coal mine when it comes to working out what could go wrong’.  

Not only should consultation be at the start, but be on-going, so, if something has an unintended consequence, there is a mechanism in place to rectify the situation. 

Governments and businesses need to lead by example and make accessibility and inclusion for the disability community a priority, as in Canada with its Chief Accessibility Officer. The Canadian Office promotes positive dialogue between government, disability stakeholders, and national and international organisations. This approach is lacking in Australia. A dedicated approach and commitment from government is needed. 

Dr Amin also stressed, ‘To encourage and maintain high standards of accessibility, serious penalties for not meeting the regulatory requirements need to be implemented…at present, the laws and regulations penalising organisations and individuals in Australia regarding accessibility are not strong enough to discourage bad practice…the fines and penalties should be viewed as an incentive to do better. 

‘In other words, it’s cheaper to create accessibility than not!’.  

Centre for Inclusive Design exists to help organisations and industries to embody Inclusive Design. Please contact us to learn more.