Disability rights within the community

Disability rights within the community

With acknowledgement to Murray Stewart.

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As socialists we support putting control of the lives of people with disabilities back into the hands of people with disabilities themselves.

A few key features of removing discrimination include:

Building codes which ensure that a large percentage of new housing stock are fully accessible to people in wheelchairs.

Call for the government to pay for all modifications to private dwellings that will enable people to continue living comfortably in their own homes if they become disabled or have a child with a disability.

Call for realistic levels of disability support assistance that is culturally relevant to all people with disabilities and helps them achieve their independence goals.

Enforce building codes which ensure that all public buildings are independently accessible to people in wheelchairs - close loopholes that enable building owners to ignore their obligations on the grounds of “unjustifiable hardship”.

Signage within public buildings which is at eye level and easily read.

We condemn the Victorian State government’s actions in blocking local council by-laws to improve disability access to buildings (Moonee Valley, Moreland and Yarra).

Building codes which ensure that all public buildings have high visibility Braille trails to main entrances, lifts, help desks and other important facilities.

Braille button signage and audible information in lifts access to outdoor spaces, which are regularly cleaned, for guide dogs, hearing dogs and other helping/ companion dogs used by people with disabilities so that these dogs can run and relieve themselves, feed and have a drink of water.

Disability friendly streetscapes enabling people with disabilities to move about safely and comfortably-including well maintained wide footpaths with safe smooth driveways, the enforcement of all laws concerning overhanging branches and cars parked across driveways blocking footpaths, bench seats placed at regular intervals so that people with restricted mobility can stop and have a rest, places to run guide dogs, hearing dogs and other helping/companion dogs used by people with disabilities, high visibility Braille trails along footpaths in main streets.

Clicking lights and properly functioning and well maintained pedestrian buttons at all traffic lights.

Develop, install and maintain audible electronic signage to assist people with vision impairments and literacy and English language difficulties to find their way around streets and public places

Restrict merchandise displays so that they don’t block footpaths or cause tripping hazards.

All shops to be made accessible to people with disabilities so that they can enter the shop in all types of wheelchairs or motorised scooters and easily ask for assistance if they cannot freely move around the shop.

Free scooters available for the use of people with restricted mobility at all shopping centres and large public places. These public places should also offer places to run and water guide dogs.

Attendant carers available to help people with disabilities, tourists and new migrants at all shopping centres and large public places.

At nature parks or zoos, where guide dogs cannot enter due to animal health risks, appropriate facilities should be provided to house the dogs and sighted guides should be provided to assist people with disabilities enjoy the venue.

End the red tape on concessions available for the care of guide dogs.

Conveniently available free food, veterinary treatment and council registration for guide dogs, hearing dogs and other helping/ companion dogs used by people with disabilities.

Free wheelchairs and wheelchair maintenance. Issue people with spare wheelchairs as needed. Free and fast delivery of spare wheelchairs to all parts of Victoria.

Regularly retrain all people who work with the public in the rights, needs and equality of people with disabilities including the rights of guide dogs, hearing dogs and other helping/companion dogs used by people with disabilities, such training to involve personal contact between workers and people with disabilities themselves.

In particular, train all health professionals in how to work with people with disabilities. This is most important for supporting people with disabilities during hospital stays when they are dependent on hospital staff, rather than their own support networks, for assistance. For example, health professionals need to talk directly to people with disabilities about their health needs rather than talking about them, in the third person, to carers who accompany people with disabilities to consultations. Also hospital employees need to be trained to place the meals tray where patients with disabilities can see it and/or reach it and give other mealtime assistance as needed, adjusting hospital work rosters if necessary to ensure that patients with disabilities have an appropriate level of assistance.

Educate customer service staff to allow people with no apparent disability to access the keys to locked accessible toilets without personal questioning — some people need to use the private wash basin provided in accessible toilets for personal health reasons.

Socialists support facilitating community gatherings to resolve issues — let’s bring people with guide dogs and people who avoid dogs for religious reasons together, so that they understand each other’s feelings and reach a suitable compromise that meets all their needs — e.g., chair and floor covers in taxis, sitting apart in restaurants make all parks and recreation venues accessible to people with all forms of disability, including rides in entertainment parks. Put all-abilities play equipment in all neighbourhood parks so that friends and siblings of all abilities can play together in their own neighbourhoods.

Adequate services and community education to support parents with disabilities. End the forced and coerced sterilisation of young women with disabilities.

End the need for supporters of people with disabilities to devote their lives to fundraising for medical research. Properly fund this medical research by redirecting money that is currently spent on celebrities’ needless anti-aging cosmetic surgery.

Integration into the mainstream will always be a goal of socialists. However some specialised services and recreation will always be needed for people with disabilities as different individuals need varying degrees of social contact with others who share their life experiences — integration does not meet all needs at all times.

User friendly technology

Large corporations continue to develop new technology to maximise their profits without regard to its user friendliness to people with disabilities. At the same time these corporations cease supplying the older less profitable items that people with disabilities were better able to use. As many of our newly developed products come from overseas, we need state, national and international legislation and guidelines to ensure that new technology is equally accessible to people of all abilities.

Currently disability organisations are forced to use precious resources to overcome obstacles caused by manufacturers, such as creating Braille labels to accommodate touch screen technology (since blind people can no longer feel the buttons) and supplying equipment for people with limited use of their hands to cope with packaging innovations. Socialists believe that those who profit from these commodities should take responsibility to ensure their user friendliness to people of all abilities.

Socialists support:

  • Restoring and maintaining public telephone facilities for the safety and convenience of all people who cannot afford or use mobile phones, eg people with limited dexterity or co-ordination.
  • The development of more easily read automated signage, rather than flashing, ever changing dot matrix electronic signage.
  • That all forms of product packaging, especially tamper-proof packaging, be trialled for its ease of removal by people with disabilities which affect the use of their hands, e.g. arthritis. Corporations that impose new packaging innovations onto the mass market should be obliged to develop and supply aids and equipment, free of charge, to help people with various disabilities deal with this packaging, e.g. gadgets that remove caps and puncture the seal of long life milk cartons, open the new tamper-proof ice cream boxes or open child proof medicine bottles.
  • The introduction of touch screen technology, which has no purpose other than to appear modern, for example the flush buttons on public toilets, is a waste of resources and severely disadvantages people with vision impairments. At the rate at which touch screen technology is replacing push button technology, people with vision impairments are in danger of being excluded from the information age or even their own kitchens unless their rights are enshrined in product manufacturing codes. Touch screen mobile phones and microwaves should maintain the option of emitting sound when keys are pressed to enable people with vision impairments to access this technology.
  • The development of virtually noiseless cars, in the interests of eliminating noise pollution, will compromise the safety of vision impaired pedestrians and others with slower reaction times. Vehicle detection systems such as electronic detection should be developed along with the new technology.
  • Niche products such as the Braille note taker are often produced by only one company, threatening the availability of these vital products if the company experiences manufacturing delays or if government subsidies are lowered. Incentives are needed to ensure such products are more widely manufactured and available to protect the rights of people who are dependent upon these products.
  • Credit cards and other plastic banking and ID cards should be available in Braille and paper money needs tactile markings to assist totally blind people lead independent lives.

Disability amongst minority groups

Anti-discrimination legislation should be applied to Australia’s immigration selection procedures to enable all potential migrants to be judged equally regardless of disability. Migrants with disabilities should have the right to access all levels and types of support available to everyone else in Australia

Socialists oppose immigration detention centres and call for the urgent immediate release of families with children, gay detainees and detainees with disabilities into the community.

The government should pro-actively train disability support workers from all ethnic communities and ensure all assistance given is culturally appropriate. Migrants with disabilities and their families should control the type of assistance given.

Community education regarding disabilities to be made available in all languages that addresses the specific cultural issues affecting people with disabilities within ethnic communities. To this end the government must fund community workers within ethnic communities who are well placed to assist with these problems.

Support for the continuation of community language courses at university level so that people who work with elderly migrants and recent migrants can provide a more relevant and accessible service.

In the provision of services and support for migrant communities, we need to recognise that some migrants do not want to have to reveal their difficult personal circumstances (eg disability, divorce) to others within the same community. Also migrant communities are not homogenous ethnic clumps - some migrants are from mixed ethnic backgrounds or were in minority groups within their countries of origin. For these reasons many people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds don’t feel well suited to either “mainstream” or “ethnic” services. So, in addition to ethnic specific services and support networks, there needs to be multicultural or interfaith social networks, so that people can form social connections with others who share somewhat similar cultures and migration experiences but aren’t necessarily from the same country or language group.

Aboriginal communities must be given adequate funding to run culturally appropriate services for people with disabilities in their own communities in the manner of their choosing. End income management and ensure Aboriginal people with disabilities can run their own lives and finances with the level and type of assistance that they feel best meets their needs.