Legislation, Policy and Practice for Digital Inclusion Panel Discussion
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Legislation, Policy and Practice for Digital Inclusion Panel Discussion

STEWART HAY: Good evening, everybody. Welcome today, in this wonderful venue here at UNSW, as we have a bit of a conversation around legislation, policy
and governance. So, to get us going, what I’m going to do is
I’m going to ask each of Alastair McEwin, Lainey Feingold
and Rosemary Kayess to introduce themselves to you
and provide you a bit of background of who they are and maybe
why they are on this panel with us. So with that in mind, I’m going to
pass to Alastair to start. Thank you, Stewart.
And good evening, everyone. It’s a great honour and privilege
to be here. I’d like to acknowledge
that we are meeting on the land of the Gadigal people. I pay my respects to their Elders
past and present, and I pay my respects to Aboriginal
people who are present here today. My role as Australia’s Disability
Discrimination Commissioner is to ensure
that people with disability, no matter where they live
in Australia, have their human rights
completely fulfilled on an equal basis
to anyone else in the community. And given the rapid development
of technology to the point where
many in the community take technology for granted, we are also seeing, in my view,
a widening divide between the technical haves
and the technical don’t-haves. And by that, I mean people with
disabilities are being excluded from often the most basic forms
of technology that so many others take for granted. In Australia, we have
a framework of discrimination laws and the human rights framework,
particularly through the Convention on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities. So we have a framework. However, what we are seeing is a lack of practical implementation
and uptake by government, service providers
and the wider community in ensuring that any form of technology
is accessible for anyone to use. What I hear every day from my colleagues
and friends with disabilities is that they are frustrated. They are particularly frustrated
at the lack of not being consulted and being included at the beginning
of the design process for technology. To me, that says
we have much to improve. We need to ensure that developers
and organisations don’t just assume
they know what’s best. For years, we’ve had
what I would call a charity model
for people with disability where they are just expected to be
able to use what they are given rather than being
at the centre of the design. So we do have much to do. We do also have many opportunities. Technology has enabled
many people with disability to lead very independent
and meaningful lives. The challenge for us
here in Australia is to make sure that anyone,
irrespective of their disability, can use any form of technology. Thank you. STEWART: Thank you very much,
Alastair. Lainey, who’s come all this way from
San Francisco in the United States, so she’s been here
for a few days now. Lainey, why don’t you
introduce yourself? I’m not sure
everyone knows who you are. There are obviously some people here
who definitely know who you are, but give us a bit of your background. OK, well, first of all,
thank you so much for having me and for coming,
and it’s really great to be here. I’m Lainey Feingold. Stewart said, you know,
“Why are you here?” And I think I’m here
’cause accessibility is global and the disability community
is global and we have so much to learn from
each other and share with each other. One little thing is that
when I was here last year in Sydney and you did the welcome to country, I said, “Wow, that’s a good idea.
We don’t do that in the US.” And I’ve started – I do it
in every presentation that I do and I even do it in the webinars and it’s gotten
such a great response, and I say,
“I learned that in Australia.” You know, we have native people
in America too that don’t get acknowledged, so I want to thank you
for teaching that. I’m a disability rights lawyer and I’ve worked with the blind
community in the United States since 1995 on various technology issues. I started with talking ATMs and I’ve worked on accessible
websites and mobile app, accessible pedestrian signals,
talking prescription labels, and I do all that
in a collaborative process that I’ve developed along with the members of
the blind community I work with. We call it structured negotiation. And basically,
for the short version of it, is that it’s just a way to bring people into the room
and solve problems using a strong legal foundation. There’s really two parts,
like Alastair said – there’s the framework
and there’s implementation. And in the US,
we have a strong foundation, we have a strong framework and I’ve been really lucky to be able
to work with disabled people based on that foundation,
in a collaborative way which puts disabled people
front and centre, which many law processes don’t. So that’s what I do. And I wrote a book about it and it’s just been great being able
to share it with people in the US and people around the globe. And I feel very welcomed
and friendly with Australia, so thank you all. STEWART: Thank you very much, Lainey. Now, I just want to hold it there
before I go to Rosemary. So Lainey does have a few of her
books here with her today as well. So if anyone is actually interested
in picking up one of those books, she’d be happy to sell you one
at cost after the session when you can… You’re supposed to say that at the
end – people don’t even know me yet. I’m getting it out there now because hopefully by the time
we get to the end, these people will just be having
a mad dash up to the stage to want to grab a book off you. So just getting it out there
before I forget as well. -Thank you.
-Now, thank you very much, Lainey. Rosemary,
I’m going to pass across to you. Thank you, Stewart. I’m the current Interim Director of the Disability Innovation
Institute at the University of NSW. So in lots of respects,
I’m focused on the future. I’m not focused so much on what we have
in terms of technology now, but I’m focused on what the
technology will be that is coming. And the reason I’m focused on that is because the institute and the
institute’s role at the university is to ensure that disability
is part of that research paradigm, that the research that is being done
for what’s to come is inclusive and accessible. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have
a focus on what is happening now. I’m a human rights lawyer,
I have other hats. I’m the chairperson of the Australian
Centre for Disability Law, and as of January,
I will be a member of the UN Committee on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities. So, yes, I do have a focus
on what’s happening now and where our policies, our programs
and our legislation is effective and not effective in ensuring access
to digital technology. But, for me, I think
one of the really important bits is ensuring that our student bodies
are given the skills from the word go to understand human diversity
in its broadest sense. And so when researchers
are doing research, they include people with disability and the concepts around disability
in that framework of thinking. And so what their research
comes up with, what that then leads into
in terms of design and production and ultimately something – a widget of some description – is inclusive and recognises the full
continuum of the human condition. And so accessibility doesn’t become
something that’s secondary, that’s add-on, that’s other. It becomes an integral part of. We’ve been doing this for a while. And because we’ve been doing this
for a while, there’s been some pretty good
milestones we’ve had over the years. Can you maybe give us
from your perspective, what do you think
some of the big milestones we’ve had over the last several,
or longer, years towards achieving this goal
of a more inclusive society? Thank you, Stewart. One of the big milestones
is that we are celebrating or, rather, recognising
the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act
here in Australia. For the first time, 25 years ago, people with disability
had a uniform national law which was designed to ensure
that they would be able to access things in the community that other
people, people without disabilities, were able to access, so premises,
education, employment – nearly most things that we
take for granted in everyday life. It’s fair to say, I suppose,
in the last 25 years, we’ve seen some progress mostly around what I would say
what people can see, so such as the built environment,
accessible transport. What we haven’t seen, though,
is a lot, or a significant progress, around the things
that you can’t really see, or best just described as
abstract or intangible. So we still have a big issue
of lack of education for people with disabilities,
in particular, children, but also, relevant for tonight, we’re not seeing a great take-up of digital development with
people with disabilities in mind. So a milestone certainly, 25 years of
the Disability Discrimination Act. Another milestone is the Convention on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities. And for the first time,
this was a convention that was developed with
people with disabilities as part of the development, and it had them in mind,
first and foremost at the centre, rather than making… Or, rather,
for people with disabilities to have to fit in with
the environment, it recognised that the environment
needed to accommodate their needs. So, for example,
people with disability accessing education in a way
that best meets their needs. So you can see
some of these milestones. That said, another milestone
is a recognition through the National
Disability Insurance Scheme that we need
a person-centred approach to ensuring that
people with disability can live independent lives
in the community. That all said, as I said,
we still have a long way to go for our government and for our
service providers and companies to recognise that if you don’t
include people with disabilities at the beginning of
the design process, we will have many challenges. STEWART: Thank you for that,
Alastair. I’m going to jump to Rosemary. So, Alastair obviously touched on
a few there from the Australian perspective. Any additional ones
that you could add to that, or think of from a milestone
perspective for you as well? Well, I mean, obviously,
but I won’t jump on Lainey’s parade, but the ADA had
a significant global influence, though in a very, you know,
Western kind of way, I should say. -But…
-She rolls her eyes. (ROSEMARY CHUCKLES) The ADA was, you know,
definitely the blueprint for our Disability
Discrimination Act. It had a huge influence
on the EU directive back in 2000 – the Equality Directive back in 2000 – so it influenced…also it influenced a lot of the disability
discrimination acts – the UK act was heavily influenced
by the Americans. Sorry, by the US. The Irish were more sensible and they went with
our construction of their DDA. And all of those acts
have had their problems. The ADA got itself caught up
in its definition of disability… ..to the point where, you know,
so much of the litigation was about whether a person
was a person with a disability under the terms of the act. That also caused problems in the UK. The EU, their directive
was only around employment. So there are milestones
but there’s also been… You know, we’ve taken steps forwards but those steps have been disabled
in some way. (CHUCKLING) I think the EU
signing up to the convention is a significant milestone. Though how stable the EU is
raises another question. But it still gives
a very strong framework for which…that to operate
in many countries, for the convention to have
much more power in many countries because of the European
Court of Human Rights. So there are other milestones
that you could probably point to in terms of human rights
that are very similar to the EU but haven’t got the same strength. So the African charter, the American…the Inter-American
charter of human rights… ..the Marrakesh Treaty. The Marrakesh Treaty doesn’t give you anything that the CRPD
doesn’t give you apart from multilateral engagement. But you can’t dis
multilateral engagement. Government-to-government engagement can be a strong driving force
for change, but you must remember
that the Marrakesh Treaty really doesn’t give
anything that the CRPD gives. So, yes, there are milestones but it’s how we implement
those milestones that are important. The framework is definitely there. But as we see with our own DDA, it’s actually quite a good piece
of legislation. I wouldn’t have constructed it
with a comparator. I would have kept
to the RDA framework. But other than that, it’s a very
strong piece of legislation. The problem is
the judiciary has been very narrow in trying to enforce a distinction between direct discrimination
and indirect discrimination, and they’ve been highly, highly
technical in their judgements as opposed to being broad
and purposive. And any lawyer in the room will know
that beneficial legislation should be interpreted
as broad and purposive. Now, Lainey,
coming from an American perspective, obviously Rosemary has touched on
a few of that, I guess from that view
of the American perspective and the history of the US
sort of things, is there anything else
to maybe add to that? Or from your perspective,
your thoughts? Well, one part is
this whole question of milestone. And it’s easy to talk about laws, but for every milestone –
I’ll mention a few more – it’s activism and organising
in the disability community that led to the milestone. So, like, we talk about the ADA, as you know, the disability community
was fighting for the ADA for over a decade. And before the ADA,
we have this law called Section 504 which has to do with the government,
the federal government, spending money and the disability community had the biggest takeover of a federal
building for 30 days in 1977 to get those regulations, which, really,
when you talk about framework, you know,
the framework is very strong. It’s about participation
and inclusion, and the courts now are saying, “It’s not ideal,
we’ll talk about it later,” but that the ADA, which was,
you know, signed in 1990, covers websites and covers mobile. So I think
when we talk about milestones, we have to remember
the day-to-day advocacy work that many of you in the room
are probably doing, that will lead to
the next milestones. In terms of digital
specifically in the US, I and my clients negotiated the first
web accessibility agreement in the US in 2000. So that’s, like, 18 years ago. That was with one of our largest
banks, Bank of America. And again, you know,
I get the credit – oh, I was the lawyer,
I structured negotiation. That never would have happened if there weren’t
blind early adopters saying… I mean, I remember the call saying… We were working on talking ATMs and
one of the blind clients called me and said, you know,
there’s this thing, online banking, and if we don’t make that
accessible… There was a time
before online banking, or in 2008, when Apple opened
its App Store for the iPhone, the blind community was right on it. Like, “There’s a thing called apps,
we need to make that accessible.” So those are
some of the other milestones. We have some court milestones –
in 2008, there was the first judge who said
websites should be accessible. Last year, we had the first trial that said
websites should be accessible. But, again, like Rosemary said,
the law’s so technical. Like, we need a strong foundation, but technology and accessibility has such a potential for creativity
and inclusion. And the law is, like… We’re all talking about AI and VR
and all this stuff and the law’s
still talking about webpages and whether there’s a connection
to a business. So we need the law,
we need the strong foundation, we need the milestones, but we have to do the work
on the ground to make sure we keep up with
the technology. STEWART: Thanks for that. Now, I’m conscious of time. We’ve probably got another 10 minutes
amongst yourselves before we throw it open
to the audience. But with that in mind, Alastair, with maybe
just a couple of minutes, some of these points
that have flagged do come back to where are we at today in the sense of
the legal sort of landscape and what’s happening currently
in Australia. Can you maybe give
a bit of a picture on that? Because my impression is that
we’re not a very litigious society, but there’s obviously stuff happening and that stuff that comes to the
Australian Human Rights Commission. So could you give us maybe a bit of
understanding what’s happening there? Yes. Firstly, as Rosemary pointed out, we’ve had many challenges
here in Australia through judges and how they’ve interpreted the DDA. At the Australian
Human Rights Commission, we run a complaints process
where people can complain if they feel that they have been
discriminated against under various forms of
discrimination, including disability. The challenge with the complaints
process or the conciliation process is that it relies on the individual, so the individual with disability,
to bring a complaint and often they are met with a wall of
resistance through the respondent. So we try to conciliate
in a non-legal process in the sense that we say,
“This is the law,” and we try to get the parties
to come to an agreement on how the particular situation
will fit under the law. And we often strive, where possible,
for practical solutions. Some of the complaints that we’ve had
about technology over the years have related to
ATMs not being accessible, we still get many complaints
about websites not being accessible. And it’s really interesting to note
the number of government departments that are respondents – both Commonwealth
and States and Territories – to complaints about
inaccessible websites. So we’ve still got a long way to go,
as I indicated earlier, and so the challenge is to ensure
that we have a system in Australia where my role is to focus on
the systemic issues and try and get,
you know, outcomes there. And we shouldn’t have to just rely on
a system where it’s based on the individual
to have to raise complaints. As Lainey has also pointed out, there’s been a great deal of advocacy
in the States, and we’ve had that too in Australia,
some, you know, fantastic milestones of where the disability community
has worked very hard together to achieve outcomes, such as advocating for the National
Disability Insurance Scheme, the blind community, in particular,
has been very active very recently on, you know, exactly the issue
that we are talking about here today in terms of accessible technology. Thank you. Now, I’m going to jump to Lainey. Usually I’d let you guys jump in
if you really want to jump in. I’ll come to you in a second. But, Lainey, we’ve got
a slightly different scenario seeming to happen
in the United States at present, in the last few years. So can you paint
just a bit of the picture of what’s going on
in the United States at present from a legal perspective? Yeah, one thing I meant to say
before, like, my work has all been
with the blind community and the blind community were the main
activists around digital initially. Now as more tech knowledge of video, you have the deaf community
being involved in the lawsuits around Netflix captioning,
captioning for students. I mean, so much of the educational
space is now video, so you’re seeing more deaf people. And we haven’t seen so much legally
on the cognitive side, but I think that’s going to be next because that’s a huge
and growing area and the activism around
people with learning disabilities or people who are autistic, there’s a lot of digital issues
around that too. So even though I tend
to talk about blindness ’cause that’s my personal work, it’s really important when you
think of what’s happening in the US, it’s not just that disability. So, yeah, in the US, like I said, I did the first with my clients
and my colleagues, we did a web accessibility agreement
in 2000 and there were lawsuits filed. Like I said,
I do structured negotiations. We don’t have to file lawsuits. We have a process
that really invites people to sit around the table
and find a solution. But there’s also been lawsuits, like the one against Netflix that the
National Association of the Deaf did, or the National Federation
of the Blind has done a lot of good lawsuits
in the educational space. And so we were all very collaborative
and it was all very nice. Some people did lawsuits. We also had a great Department
of Justice under President Obama that was doing a lot of digital work. So comes now, 2018,
and we are on track that there will be 2,000 lawsuits
filed by the end of the year about web accessibility. 3,000% increase since 2015.
Approximately. I was gonna say don’t quote me, but there’s some video cameras here
I guess. -I’m being quoted – approximately.
-Approximately. Yeah. Approximately. And, you know, that’s because
we have some lawyers who… ..a very tiny handful of lawyers who
are not disability rights lawyers who saw an opportunity based on a foundation that
the disability community built, and so we have a lot of potential
backlash against that right now. These cases are cases being filed with settlements
that are confidential, no-one knows what’s really happening,
quick turnaround. And it’s really important, and I have really struggled with this
myself personally because, you know, I don’t like that kind of use
of the strong foundation we have because it generates a fear. And people are starting to do
web access, “Oh, I’m afraid of being sued.” And that is not a motivation
that will get us where we need to be in terms of having accessibility
built in from the core. But it’s also very important… You know,
there’s a lot of metaphors – don’t throw the baby out
with the bathwater or don’t let a couple of rotten
apples spoil the whole basket. So, yes, we have a situation now
where we have these lawsuits, there is potential backlash, especially with the government,
as we have now. But, yeah, so that is the situation. I really believe in lawsuits
because lawsuits are a good tool. I like collaboration
when it’s possible. And it’s really important not to hear ’cause you may hear, “Oh, my God,
so many lawsuits in the US. “It’s terrible.
You gotta change the law.” No, it’s not that,
we have to figure out a way that the very tiny percentage
of lawyers who are using the law
in a non-productive way, we have to figure out that. We can’t…I really believe we don’t set policy
based on the bad actors. We have to set policy
based on the good actors and figure out how to deal with
the bad actors, yeah. I will say on all these lawsuits, they are going
in the direction of access. It’s very narrow ’cause, like I say,
it’s just about websites. And judges, like you said, Rosemary, you know, there’s talk about
who’s disabled and who isn’t, there’s, like, this…
we call it a nexus, you know – is the website connected to
brick and mortar? There’s all that stuff going on,
but by and large, the courts are mostly saying that disabled people
have a right to go to court and get accessible websites. So it’s a situation. So we’ve got an interesting
sort of difference between, say, what’s happening
in the United States, what’s happening
in the Australian space. From the Australian space,
we seem to follow a lot of what your general thinking
has been as a lawyer. Rosemary, I’m just curious
to get your impression about – are we heading…
are we in the right track or do we need to be doing more
for the community moving forward? From the Australian perspective. Oh, um… God, yes, we need to be doing more. It’s…it’s a tricky ask. You’re talking about a dynamic space. I mean, you’re talking about
technology. And if there’s one way to describe
the space that we’re in, it’s dynamic. I mean, um… ..the pace at which things…
with which technology is changing is incredible, and so how do you take
something that’s standardised and takes years to develop
and get agreed to to be as fluid as the thought
processes of the developers? So how do you work in that space? How do you keep that space focused on making sure
it’s including everybody? I think there must be
a way of doing it, but I can’t see it in the short term
unfortunately. And I think that’s why… I come back to my first point when I talked about
my role at the university and what the institute wants to do,
is that there’s a long-term game to embed disability in the broader
thinking of the community and get designers taught their craft
and researchers taught their craft with the whole human condition
in mind. And, I mean, OK,
that’s a bit of a cop-out saying it can only be addressed
in the future. There are things that we can do now. But I think litigation is… ..a very small part of the game. I think engagement… One of the best things the Australian
Human Rights Commission achieved in the space around the DDA
was the original banking standards. And that was engagement
with the banks in a positive way about a narrow area
that they understood. And so that engagement, the commission gave space
to people with disability and the banking industry to engage one on one
and find solutions. Now, the longer that process… So once that was established
and those standards were in place, that was fine, but as technology changed,
those standards became redundant. So that engagement
needs to be ongoing. There needs to be mechanisms
that we can build into the industries to ensure they have
internal watchdogs. And this is why education of people
with disability is so important – we need people with disability,
you know, in education, getting the academic, you know,
education that everybody else gets, and being offered the same academic
opportunities as everybody else so they can be working
in these industries and they can be part of the industry and informing the industry
about their experience and so it’s not something foreign
to them. Engagement is such a powerful thing
when it comes to disability and it’s because
people with disability have been isolated
from the mainstream. And people don’t often engage
with people with disability, so they don’t think
of the issues for them. And so it’s not…wilful ignorance, it’s just ignorance
nine times out of ten. And so it’s about making space
for that engagement and looking at how that engagement
can happen in an ongoing, dynamic way. Thanks for that, Rosemary. And before I throw open to the crowd, Lainey and Alastair, just… Any sort of additions
to what Rosemary was saying? Lainey, I’ll start with you. Yeah, the irony is this is a panel on, like, legislation and law
and we’re, like, lawyers, but the truth is the law
really can’t be the driver. I mean, it’s like… We see here in the US, you know, Microsoft is really
just doing wonderful things around accessibility
because they have made it part of their corporate culture,
starting… ROSEMARY: And why so?
Because their head… I was just… Finished my sentence. Satya Nadella, CEO, his son
actually has a disability. -I apologise.
-No, no, no. I was saying I agree with you. And if those of you
who haven’t read the book that the CEO of Microsoft wrote –
it’s called ‘Hit Refresh’ – and you can see what happens
with one person. And they have Jenny Lay-Flurrie, who has the highest
accessibility position. And I did a session last year
with one of their lawyers and we saw exactly eye to eye. You know, I’ve only represented
disabled people my whole…this part of my career, and they’re Microsoft, you know,
one of the biggest corporations, and we agreed that,
yeah, the law’s important. But we had cookies, because the law’s
like the sugar or the butter, but it’s not the cookie,
it’s not the whole cookie, you know? You need the culture
and the transparency and the accountability
and the design and the development. You need all this,
so those of us in the legal space have to kind of humble ourselves
with, like, how much we can do and remind people, yeah,
this is a civil and a human right, and don’t forget that. But accessibility is about people and, you just…
the law has its limits. -And I’ll add a little bit to that.
-I don’t know. Our experience as a consulting firm,
a lot of the times it’s because… Our experience is those people
who actually have experience with other people with disabilities, they tend to be more proactive
and productive towards doing the right thing. Whereas a lot of people,
as Rosemary, you were saying, if they’ve had no experience
with someone who has a disability, it’s just not in their conscious mind
and they don’t think about it. LAINEY: Oh, I should have… Just one
last thing on that Microsoft panel. The Microsoft lawyer said,
you know, we had seven things that really make for
accessible culture. And number one was hiring people with
disabilities. That she saw that… And I had never really… I knew, of course,
you have to hire disabled people, but she’s the one, the Microsoft
lawyer, who taught me that is key to digital accessibility because if you’re designing something
and the person next to you is deaf and isn’t going to be able to see
the video unless you have captions or is blind and isn’t going to be
able to use a touch screen, you’re not gonna do it,
so hiring is, you know, word one. It’s not a sep… Yeah, I had always thought
of it, like, “Oh, diversity hiring,
that’s important.” But, no, it’s, like,
a critical component. STEWART: Which is interesting.
I’ll throw it to Alastair. Because, Alastair,
you flagged earlier how there were a number of complaints
against government agencies. And I do remember seeing a statistic, where I think it’s over
the last 20 years, the employment numbers of people
with disability in governments has halved, I think,
at the federal level, so we’ve gone from about 5.8%
down to I think about 2.6%, roughly. Um, so, curious. Your thoughts, I guess, before
we throw it open to the crowd. Anything further to add
along those lines? Certainly, we’ve seen a decline in the rate of employment
of people with disability in the public service, both at Commonwealth
and at State and Territory levels. Absolutely, in the last 20 years,
as you’ve pointed out, it’s gone from I think 6%
down to as low as 1.8%, 2%, and in some ways
it’s still declining, so we have a significant issue
here in Australia of where government is not,
or are not… ..governments are not employing
people with disability or giving them the opportunity
to come into the workforce and then be supported
to become employees. For me, that is also linked to –
and as Rosemary’s pointed out – where we see success is when we bring
together the relevant stakeholders, so industry, government
and people with disability, and try and identify
what is the common issue and then come up with a meaningful
dialogue to develop solutions and to try and work out
what the…where to from here. So absolutely,
we are seeing many declines. So the rate of employment, the digital divide
that we talked about earlier and… So, in many ways,
we are seeing a backward step. And Rosemary’s quite right. We need to always be
looking to the future to make sure that we get
the foundations right. Thank you very much for that,
Alastair. So I’ve gone a little bit longer
than I was first expecting, but we had some wonderful thoughts
and opinions from all three of our panellists. What I do want to do is give everyone
who may have a question an opportunity to ask a question. We do have some roaming microphones, so does anyone have a question
that they would like to ask? Ah, I see a hand over here. BRENDA: Hi, thanks. That was really, really to the point, I would say,
especially the last part. I had something in mind around,
like, asking something towards that. So you kind of answered a bit
of what I was wanting to ask. Oh, sorry. You said introduce
yourself, so… (LAUGHS) STEWART: Just your name
and then ask your question. My name is Brenda Castro,
I work as a designer, user experience,
interaction design mostly. And, yeah, my question
is basically because… In my work, I’ve seen
very, very little people with even minor disabilities
engaged in the process. And one of the things
that could help us a lot as designers
and in the technology industry, would be to have,
for example, initiatives where you could actually, without
a lot of resources, access… ..have the possibility to engage with
people with different disabilities on the beginning of your project, which for me, and I’m sure for many
other people in my same situation, like, in the similar roles, it’s just very difficult to approach
or to find the people who would actually teach you
how to do a better design. Because even if you have the basics,
the law, or the basics on theory, even web standards, for example, are
very clear, even that is not enough. You need to know people, you need
to actually get the people engaged. So are there any initiatives,
at least in Australia, that we know that we, people working
in the field, could actually access and get that feedback from people
who could teach us? STEWART: OK. I’m going to throw to you first,
Rosemary, because I think you’ve got
some thoughts to this and I know Lainey’s… There’s something in the US
she could probably flag. Yeah, look, I don’t know
of specific projects but I know a way you could probably
work through it. And, I mean, one of the ways
that you could do it is by approaching… ..disability organisations. They generally have people
that work in this space. If you’re respectful to your
engagement with those organisations, recognise and respect the expertise
that you’re seeking, and engage with that as you would
any other consultant, I’m sure you would be able
to get access to people to be able to support
your design process. But this is exactly
what we are trying to build into the opportunities
for design students and… Sorry, art and design students,
built environment students, engineering students,
is that opportunity to be able to engage people
with disability to be involved in their projects
from the very beginning to help frame the questions, to help frame the design parameters and to be part of the team. But, so I think if you go
to organisations such as Vision Australia or…even the Deaf Services
around the country, or People with Disability Australia, that they would have people
that work in this space and would be quite willing
to assist you if you, you know, approached it in…
as part of your…your project. STEWART: I’ll add one thing to that. So there are a couple of market
research companies in Australia that will help you find
people with disabilities. Our company does
something similar as well. What we generally recommend, though, is that, if you’re going to go
down that path, you’ve got sort of
sometimes two options – you can go find volunteers,
but we generally recommend that you compensate people
for their time for any research. But what I want to do… Lainey, there’s also Teach Access
in the United States. So if we come back to
the education side of things, we sort of have two angles here. We’ve got the angle of
including people with disabilities as part of the process, but the education side was
another element to that question and the Teach Access initiative
in the United States seems to be trying to deal
a little bit with that from the US perspective. Yeah, I can answer that. I was going to say
that I know there’s some people just right in the room from
Digital Gap Initiative, for example, which is a grassroots organisation. I think that, you know, if… -And I don’t know who else is…
-ROSEMARY: I forgot about that. (LAUGHS) Gisele, raise your hand in case anyone wants to talk
to you afterwards. Sorry, Gisele. Yeah, so, a couple of things. Yes, Gisele over here. I keep on my website and I would
recommend someone here do it of… ..non-profits, NGOs,
who do this kind of work, there’s also consultants who do it. I think it’s really important
to treat whatever consultant you bring in
or disabled person as a part of the process,
not an add-on. It has to be
just like any other vendor. That, you know, you have
a security issue. You want to make sure you have, you know, hit all the buttons
on security, you’re gonna have that built in,
it’s going to be a part. If disability issues become add-on
or second nature or, “We’ll just do it after work or
we’ll just have a volunteer come in, “give ’em a gift card,” it’s going to get lost once you get
to the next, so…to the next phase. Yeah, we have this…a thing
going on in the US, and it might be even global,
Teach Access, where we don’t have enough
skilled designers and developers who know accessibility, and so the
big companies have gotten together and they have a website,
I think it’s… It’s definitely ‘teachaccess’,
might be teachaccess.org and this summer, for example, they brought in
25 computer science students to Silicon Valley and they spent… I think they spent three weeks going
around and meeting the big companies and a lot of the companies
have what they call empathy labs where you can try out the equipment
and just get some basic understanding ’cause we need… But that’s sort of…
Teach Access is a separate thing. That should have
disabled people in it but it’s somewhat different
than the whole usability… ..making sure disabled people
are involved from the outset in the design. But, yeah, I really
recommend having a… ‘Cause we have a lot of NGOs,
and there’s also people… Like, people in the US,
you can do it remotely and you can get feedback remotely. I think you guys do that
at Intopia and… STEWART: Well, there’s an ability,
for example, in the United States, to do a lot of that remotely. They find hit-and-miss about
the potential benefits of that. We do it more locally…type stuff. But we’re one of a number of
organisations that do the same thing. So there are organisations
out there that do that. I think if you connect more in
with the accessibility community, that will give you more opportunities to sort of find these organisations
and groups, and everything
Rosemary and Lainey just said, that can help you include it and
just being aware of that’s just… ..that’s the first big step. And one quick comment from me
on this, when it comes to teaching students
about inclusive design, it’s important to stress that people
with disabilities are very diverse, just like, you know,
any people in the community. So, many organisations will bring in
a person with a disability, let’s say, for example,
a blind person, and say, “Well, we consulted with a blind
person on the design of this product “and we’ve ticked the box.” Somebody who, for example,
is totally blind with no sight as opposed to somebody
with low vision will have very different needs when it comes to how you use
a smart device. So it’s a really important point
for our students to remember, is to always keep that in mind,
the diversity of disability. STEWART: Even two people
with the same blindness about them may have different levels
of aptitude for technology and we see that a lot, so there’s a lot of those variables
to keep in mind. Conscious of time.
Any other questions? Sean, over here, just in the middle. SEAN: I’m just curious. Like, currently,
if you’re a disabled person and you go through our DDA process, there is a fear factor out there
in the community where people might not want
to take up the process, A, it’s too complex or B, the fact
that if they lose the case they’re going to bring up, they could
be countersued for the legal costs. So I would like to know that the pros
and cons from the US side of things and from the Australian
side of things, should we have something in there
for, like, a safety net to permit people to utilise
the DDA more often and to get that social change
we’re all trying to achieve? Who wants to jump in first? Alastair? (AUDIENCE LAUGHS) Oh, thank you.
Thank you, Sean, for that. Look, in terms of what we try to do at the Australian
Human Rights Commission with the complaints process is,
I said earlier, we encourage the parties to come up
with the solution that, you know… The best outcome for both
the complainant and the respondent. I acknowledge, of course,
the barriers to that are, you know, people with disability
feeling intimidated or overwhelmed by the system, particularly if the outcome
is not what they want and they wish to take it to court. They have the option
of taking it to court. However, as many of us know, the justice system is very expensive,
very complex, very time-consuming, so, many, many barriers. So, all up, for me,
it’s really important for the Australian
Human Rights Commission to promote the outcome where we can, noting that the outcomes
of conciliation are confidential, but where we can,
we try and promote… For example, if an employer agreed to do things like
disability awareness training or to implement a more proactive, inclusive design process
and so forth, so we try and do that,
so that’s some of the pros. Of course, some of the cons
are being overwhelmed by the system. Rosemary? Beyond conciliation, we don’t have
a human rights jurisdiction within the Federal Court, so we don’t have
a human rights jurisdiction that is a no-cost jurisdiction,
and that is problematic. I believe there is
probably a good case for a human rights jurisdiction
that is a no-cost jurisdiction, because the cost…the cost issue
is a big issue. I mean, the decision to take
an unsuccessful conciliation to the Federal Court is definitely… ..a difficult decision
to make for people. You know, do my kids go to the local
high school with their siblings or do we lose the house? I mean, not a question
you really want to put on people. The other…the other issue is
that we’ve got jurisprudence where… ..business cases have,
with very little evidence and… I mean, not a particularly
well-run case, but unfortunately
a very adverse decision in terms of Jetstar and King. And so when you see
business cases trumping…beneficial legislation, it’s very difficult
to inspire confidence. So…the cost jurisdiction
is a problem and I… There are mechanisms like
cost capping and stuff like that, but there isn’t enough. I mean, there would need to be
a wholesale recognition of a no-cost jurisdiction before we got any change, so I don’t see that
on the horizon anytime soon. Unlike the States. LAINEY: Well, one thing you just… Alastair, you were talking
about confidentiality, and that would be a place that
would be good to change because I… My clients and I have really
insisted on transparency of our agreements from the beginning
because nobody wants to go first. And even though I never go to court
and we don’t have any court cases, we have what I call
industry precedent, so when we convince the first bank
to do talking ATMs, the next bank could say, “Oh, well, they did talking ATMs,
I won’t be first.” Talking prescription labels. It was a big issue
’cause nobody had them. There haven’t been any court cases. All the pharmacies have done them as
a result of structured negotiations. No-one wanted to go first. So, we do tend to keep the money part
of our cases confidential, like what attorneys’ fees are paid – I’ll mention that in a minute –
or damages to the client. But I think it’s really important. And that was one of Microsoft’s
elements of the cookie. You know, transparency,
and say what you’re doing, not just so people
can have the benefit, ’cause if you’re doing accessibility
but nobody knows it, that’s a problem in itself, but so that other businesses
can have the benefit, that they’re not the first and there can be learnings
even in a competitive field, that there can be learnings
from each other. The way the money works in the US is that the Americans
with Disabilities Act does say that if you win your case, the company or
the government that loses has to pay your attorneys’ fees, and that works even in settlements, so that is my business model,
I guess you’d say, is that when we settle with
a company, they do pay our attorneys’ fees,
and the idea of that… And this is how we never have
any issue ’cause we say… And this is true for race cases
and gender cases, that the people
being discriminated against don’t have the resources
to hire a lawyer, so if you win your case
or you successfully settle, you do get your lawyers paid. And you only have to pay the company
if your case was frivo… It’s higher standard. If your lawsuit was frivolous and
unreasonable and without foundation, something like that,
those kinds of words, then you might have to pay… -ROSEMARY: Vexatious.
-Vexatious. Right. Then you might have to pay,
but it’s not like, oh, if you lose, you’re stuck paying. And the attorneys’ fees I think
is a really big piece of it because we have a separate law
for airline access. Airlines aren’t covered by
the Americans with Disabilities Act. That law doesn’t have
the attorneys’ fees piece, and so that law
has very little enforcement. People still in 2018, you know,
they have terrible problems with wheelchairs getting wrecked
and people not being treated fairly, so the attorneys’ fees piece is…
it is an important part. Yeah, don’t fly in the States,
not with American Airlines. -(ALL LAUGH)
-Believe me. Yeah, it’s a problem. Our co-founder is
a wheelchair user as well and he’s had a few issues as well
from flying unfortunately. Yeah, ’cause you can’t sue them because there’s not
that independent… They call it… You can’t… You have to go to
the administrative processes. You can’t go right to court, so… OK, we probably have time
for one more question. We’ve had a gentleman jump in
really quickly down here. CLIVE: Hi, my name’s Clive. We’re currently setting up a start-up
to enable carpooling services for the disabled carers
and guardians. So carpooling
in its traditional sense, you know, where one parent
or a guardian or a carer could actually help another parent’s
disabled kid or child. And one of the things that… And it’s not a service where
we’re going to charge by the hour to the parent, it’s going to be
a business-to-business model. So, you know, it’s just
a subscription fee that the business pays and then
the users can use it for free. But the challenge
that I have is, you know, how can I actually train up
able parents to help other parents
who have disabled kids just so that they can look after
the person when they are transporting them
from point A to point B. So my question is,
are there any organisations or training frameworks in place to kind of, at least, give
the basic guidelines to, you know, able-bodied people
to help another disabled person? Who would like to jump in
on that question? WOMAN: Sorry, just…
It’s called Enabler. That’s Huy Nguyen
down in Melbourne. WOMAN: By Huy Nguyen. He won a Myer Foundation grant
to develop something like that based on the standards
and with avatars to train people in a safe way. It’s really quite cool. When you were saying
there’s so much happening. Like, here in Australia
we’ve got the Remarkable group, and the Remarkable group is part
of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, and they’re a start-up accelerator
to help organisations that are focusing on using technology to target and benefit
the disability community, which is a large community, and they’re trying to help people
to get their start-ups up and running
as an incubator process. So Huy’s company, Enabler,
is one of those groups, and it’s some great stuff that’s
actually happening in Australia. Alastair, sorry,
you were going to jump in. Firstly, Clive, it’s fantastic to
hear that you’re being so proactive in terms of using technology to address what I think is a very
significant need in the community. We’ve got many, many families who
are…with children with disabilities who just want the best
for their child to be educated
in a mainstream setting and they have to make many sacrifices
to try and achieve that ideal. You could, for example, think about
contacting Family Advocacy NSW, who do a lot of advocacy about
children and inclusive education, so that’s just one
that popped to my…my head. And of course,
as we mentioned earlier, PWD and others
who might be able to facilitate some sort of referrals
or connect you. I think it’s just great. It’s really good to see also all
the innovation that is going on in the disability sector at the
moment, particularly with the NDIS. And we are…we need to make sure that yourself, Clive, and others,
have the means to be innovative to make sure that we don’t then
get stuck in the bureaucracy or hamstrung by red tape
and government inaction, so my hope for the future
is that innovation for people with disability
can be allowed to be as, you know, innovative
as they can be. So we’re pretty well out of time. But what I do want to do is allow a short one-minute final
sort of thought pieces from each of our panellists from both the questions
we’ve had through today and the commentary
we’ve had this evening. And what I might do
is I’ll go from right to left. So, Rosemary, I will actually
start with you. I know you were hoping to go last.
I’ll start with you, Rosemary. And, yes, a short sort of takeaway. What do you think from today, maybe what do you think
we need to do? What would you want to leave
everyone with as a…thought point? People with disability have just
got to be part of the community. I mean, if…
Engagement is how it works. If we’re there and an integral part, then it will work
because we’ll be seen, we’ll be doing, we’ll be part of. I know it’s a simplification but I think, you know, two of the questions
that we’ve had tonight is about how do I contact people
with disability? Well, if, you know, we were
more included in the society, if the society was more inclusive, those questions
wouldn’t need to be asked. Thank you, Rosemary. Lainey.
What would you like to leave? That was a really good summation.
(LAUGHS) You can always go ‘ditto’,
but what else would you like to add? I want to say ‘ditto’. I guess I just want to throw in
a word we haven’t said, which is intersectionality, which is disability is not
its own thing over here. That any conversation
about access to justice for poor people,
for Indigenous people, gender, disability is crosscutting. And the more we can take it
out of the silo – it’s like, you know, another way
in addition to what Rosemary said – the better, because we can’t…
we can’t just be an add-on, you know, we can’t be
an afterthought. We have to be there
from the beginning, and the more, like you said, we recognise
the full scope of humanness, the more we’re going to have
accessibility. And also, don’t forget
we’re all going to get old, on top of everything else. As a last resort, you know,
design for your future self. We are all going to need this.
We are all going to need this. -Some of us sooner than others.
-(LAUGHTER) -Thank you.
-STEWART: Thank you, Lainey. Alastair? When I reflect on the cases, for
example, Rosemary’s mentioned, King v Jetstar
and there have been many others, such as Graeme Innes vs RailCorp, and when I reflect on
how the respondents have been very defensive
and very adversarial, and when I reflect on the complaints
that we get at the commission, large organisations, we need
to build a culture of inclusion for everyone in the organisation. You can have a fantastic CEO
or board saying, “This is the right thing to do,” but if it doesn’t trickle down
to the front-line staff, to the designers, then we will
never achieve an inclusive society. So a culture of inclusion
is everyone’s responsibility. STEWART: I can’t agree more
with that, Alastair. And I’m a big fan of… A value statement’s not enough. It’s actually got to be embraced
and actioned throughout the organisation. Alastair, Lainey, Rosemary, thank you
all for your time this evening. I know, Lainey,
you’ve travelled a lot farther than Alastair and Rosemary. -LAINEY: I got to come to Australia.
-(LAUGHS) But it’s been fascinating,
it’s been enlightening. There were some
really interesting points all three of you brought to the table
for everyone here. So if we could have a nice round of
applause for all three of them. Thank you very much. I also want to thank
a few other people. I’d like to thank
University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, Telstra, Intopia. I also want to thank the Sydney
Web Accessibility Meetup Group and the Accessibility Camp,
or A11yCamp, and A11y Bytes, all of which have worked together
to help us put this on for you today. So I really would like
to thank all of them ’cause without them
we wouldn’t have been able to put something like this
together as well. So thank you very much for that. I also want to thank Meredith and Lyn
from University of New South Wales, and also Renata and Chris
from Intopia. All four of them have done an amazing
amount of effort behind the scenes to make sure this ran, hopefully,
as smoothly as it has. So, thank you, each of you,
for your time and effort. So finally, thank you all
for attending and thank you for your participation
this evening.

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