PlanPlan, implement and measure outcomes
Local governments increase the social and economic participation of people with disability by using strategic planning processes which identify and respond to community needs. Local governments in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia are required by state legislation to develop specific disability action plans. In other states and territories without this legislation, many local governments still develop disability access and inclusion plans, whilst others use a range of different approaches.
Some local governments have had specific plans for accessibility for a number of years and are up to their third or more plan. Others have only recently developed their first plan. However, almost all who develop plan consult widely with people with disability their families and carers and with disability service providers.
This section provides information about how local governments set targets and develop plans to increase social and economic participation, how actions are implemented, and how outcomes for people with disability are measured.
Most local governments set targets and timelines for actions to increase the social and economic participation of people with disability as part of strategic planning; for example, during disability action planning, often in conjunction with people with disability. Some local governments have developed plans with their advisory committees and some engage people with disability and the community more broadly. Local governments recognise the need to establish targets and performance measures in order to establish a benchmark from which to monitor outputs as well as outcomes, i.e., whether the strategies, policies and programs they implement have increased the social and economic participation of people with disability.
Develop and integrate action plans
Disability action plans are most effectively implemented and monitored when integrated into other strategic planning and reporting processes, for example, the Integrated Planning and Reporting framework in New South Wales. This is because the actions for social and economic participation appear in the operational or corporate plans, which then inform division or departmental annual work plans. Accountability is critical and according to the national survey most local governments assign responsibility and timeframes for actions and report on progress annually.
Regional planning can also be important where the needs of communities and/or where the issues around service provision are similar and nearly half of Australia local governments consult with their neighbours when planning for social and economic participation.
Disability action plans should be reviewed regularly to ensure they continue to the meet the needs of the local community and adjusted accordingly. Where these plans are legislated, the review period is fixed, for example, every four years in New South Wales.
In some local governments, disability planning is embedded across related community sectors such as ageing, youth and health. Collaboration across different departments within local government is one of the key enablers of this much more holistic whole-of-person approach.
Deliver accessible infrastructure
Access allows people with disability to participate in everyday activities and local governments are aware of and aim to comply with all relevant standards and codes, such as those under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Building Code of Australia. The national survey showed that almost all local governments consider that the provision of accessible infrastructure and public facilities is one of their key roles.
The Building Code of Australia outlines the minimum standards when designing and delivering new, or upgrading existing, infrastructure. In addition, local governments are responsible for approving Disability Discrimination Act assessments for private developments.
However, most local governments feel that the current Building Code of Australia standards need to be updated because they frequently do not:
- Accommodate all dimensions of disability i.e. the minimum standards primarily support access for people with mobility issues rather than intellectual, vision or hearing impairments.
- Keep up to date with assistive technology developments, i.e., latest motorised scooters can be wider and have different turning circles to traditional motorised wheelchairs.
- Reflect leading practice in designing and planning infrastructure, i.e., universal design principles.
In response to these issues, some local governments go beyond compliance and develop locally tailored standards and processes to:
- Identify access issues from the perspective of people with disability and/or through universal design frameworks.
- Ensure resources are dedicated to enabling higher standards of access and inclusion.
- Lobby private developers and businesses to consider disability perspectives and/or consider a universal design framework.
Universal design places human diversity as the focus of the design process so buildings and environments can be designed to meet the needs of all users.
It therefore considers all people, regardless of their age, size, and physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability. It is about achieving good design so that everyone can access, use and understand the environment to the greatest extent and in the most independent and natural manner possible, without the need for adaptations or specialised solutions.
Some local governments conduct audits to identify and address access issues. Access audits, when combined with community consultation and usage statistics can also help determine priorities for change. Actions can then be integrated into infrastructure delivery plans.
To further support decision-making during the design phase of infrastructure projects some local governments organise disability awareness site visits for key decision-makers and planners to help them better understand and consider the perspectives and experiences of people with disability. Often this is a role for the disability advisory committee.
Many local governments aim to exceed the Building Code of Australia by incorporating universal design principles in major redevelopments of infrastructure.
The lack of availability and incorrect use of disabled parking the source of many community complaints. Some local governments have responded by undertaking research and providing additional access permits to both residents and visitors to their respective local government areas.
Local governments often form partnerships with key stakeholders and community members, for example local businesses and people with disability, to develop local standards to improve access.
In addition, those local governments which enable access to infrastructure or purpose build facilities attract residents and visitors with disability, which contributes to the vibrancy of their communities.
Deliver programs and facilitate access to programs
All local governments view the provision of accessible programs and activities as core business. Generally, they support social participation for people with disability by facilitating and delivering universally accessible activities, programs and events. The national survey showed that around two thirds of local governments deliver all of their community programs with universal access, often in response to feedback from the community.
About one third of local governments also deliver programs and activities specifically for people with disability, their families and carers.
Where local governments do not directly deliver particular programs and activities, they encourage and support community organisations to deliver inclusive programs and activities, especially via accessibility checklists for event organisers.
Most local governments with disability action plans provide progress reports at least annually to their Councils. However, there is little evidence that local governments measure how and whether their actions increase the social and economic participation of people with disability. Actions are often reported but outcomes and impacts are often seen as being too hard to assess because the success of policies and programs is dependent on a range of factors (some of which are beyond the control of local government) and it is often hard to attribute outcomes to specific local government actions.
Based on this resource, local governments could use an evaluation framework approach to measure outcomes based on:
- Engagement: did we engage the right people about the right things at the right time and did our engagement with them make an impact on what we were trying to plan or implement?
- Plan, implement and measure outcomes: did we use the right processes to plan for change and are we seeing increased social and economic participation as a result of our actions?
- Build capability and capacity: have we built the right capabilities within our own local government and with others in terms of leadership and skills to ensure our thinking has social and economic participation as part of decision-making? Have we allocated sufficient resources to our policies and programs and were they used efficiently and effectively?
- Build networks and partnerships: how have our networks and partnerships contribute to strong outcomes for our community?
- Advocacy: how were we able to advocate increasing social and economic participation within the local government sector, with other levels of government and with other non-government organisations?
- Boost local employment: what has been the impact of our actions on local employment and what has been the impact on our local community as a whole?