Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Outcome 1

Report on performance: Outcome 2

Report on performance: Outcome 3

Management and accountability

Financial performance and future operations

Appendices

References

Providing access for people with disabilities

Updated: 20 December 2010

Disability Action Plan

The AEC's Disability Action Plan 2008–11 was developed in consultation with the AEC's Disability Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of peak disability organisations and the Australian Human Rights Commission. The plan has been registered with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The Disability Action Plan 2008–11 has two objectives:

  • to maximise the accessibility of the AEC's products and services for people with disabilities and to enable people with disabilities to effectively participate in the electoral process
  • to ensure that the AEC is accessible as a workplace, ensuring equal opportunity for staff members and prospective staff members with disabilities.

The action plan is divided into four parts. The first three parts relate to the AEC's outcomes and outputs framework – an effective electoral roll, an impartial and independent electoral system, and an informed community. The fourth covers the AEC's management and accountability in relation to staff members with disabilities.

In 2008–09, the AEC reported for the first time on the implementation of the 2008–11 action plan. The report, based on activity reports provided by senior officers across the AEC, states that the AEC has successfully completed many of the shorter term initiatives and that many of them have become entrenched 'business as usual' activities. For example, all electoral enrolment information has been made available on the AEC website; people can contact the AEC via the website to request information in accessible formats; and AEC staff are available to assist people with disabilities to complete their enrolment forms.

Many of the outstanding actions will be addressed as part of the election preparation process. For example, a review of polling place premises is scheduled to occur throughout 2009–10. The review will use an inspection checklist developed in consultation with the Disability Advisory Committee and a specialist architect.

The action plan's objectives have been built into the AEC's business plans to:

  • ensure that all business areas routinely take proactive approaches to accessibility issues
  • provide, as far as possible, equality of access to AEC products and services within a supportive employment environment.

Commonwealth Disability Strategy

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy sets objectives for Australian Government agencies to improve outcomes for people with disabilities through five core roles: policy adviser, regulator, purchaser, provider and employer.

Policy adviser

The AEC's policy advice role relates to its responsibility for administration of the Electoral Act.

In 2008–09, the AEC met regularly with groups representing people with disabilities. For example, the Disability Advisory Committee, which meets formally at least annually, consists of representatives from most of the major disability peak bodies in Australia and from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The meetings:

  • facilitate learning about emerging issues of concern to the disability community, as well as potential changes and improvements
  • inform the AEC of ways to be responsive to evolving demands, in identifying problems and opportunities, and in learning about initiatives being developed in other sectors
  • help the AEC to continue developing and delivering services which are fair and responsive to the community.

In April 2009, the AEC met with the Disability Advisory Committee to discuss a range of issues, including the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters Report on the 2007 federal election electronic voting trials, and to provide its first report on the implementation of the Disability Action Plan 2008–11.

The meeting was chaired by the Deputy Electoral Commissioner. State electoral commissions were invited to participate in the meeting, and representatives from New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia attended. The state electoral commissions were included in recognition of the similarities in the issues they face and the potential for cooperation and collaboration to deliver better electoral services.

Regulator

In 2008–09, the AEC continued to provide information about electoral regulations, and all publicly available information on compliance with the regulations, in accessible online formats.

The Electoral Act permits an elector who is unable to sign their enrolment application because of physical incapacity to provide a medical certificate to establish their entitlement to enrol.

The Electoral Act also allows certain electors who are unable to attend a polling place on polling day to become general postal voters. As soon as ballot papers become available after an election is called, the AEC forwards them directly to general postal voters. Application forms for this type of enrolment and registration are available from the AEC website.

Purchaser

The AEC's procurement activities accord with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines.

There were no major purchases made during the 2008–09 that involved a request for purchasing specifications in an alternative format for people with disabilities.

The AEC has been able to capture quantitative data against the disability performance indicators for procurement with greater accuracy by instituting a centralised disability contract management reporting process. The priority has been the greater utilisation of existing compliance and reporting mechanisms. This has enabled the AEC to better report its achievements against the Commonwealth Disability Strategy and the related AEC Disability Action Plan.

Provider

The AEC's Service Charter commits it to delivering quality services for all electors by providing:

  • convenient and accessible divisional offices
  • convenient and accessible polling places
  • assistance when required (for example, on election day)
  • postal and pre-poll voting options, if electors cannot easily access a polling place
  • enrolment and other forms that are easy for clients to use, including enrolment forms that can be downloaded from the AEC website.

The AEC consults disability groups to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.

In 2008–09, the AEC continued to make enrolment processes as convenient as possible for all electors, especially those with disabilities. Enrolment information, personal enrolment details and enrolment forms were accessible through the AEC website.

While the AEC website meets the Government Online standards for providing access for people with disabilities, the AEC is committed to continuously improving the website in this respect. This involves ongoing consultation with disability groups. Where possible, public information released by the AEC is made available in accessible formats, such as HTML or accessible PDF that can be read by screen readers.

During the year, AEC staff participated in events, such as presentations at residential facilities, aimed at improving electoral awareness among people with disabilities.

Employer

The AEC strives to ensure all its employment policies and practices comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. The AEC's commitment to encouraging the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in its workforce is set out in its Collective Agreement 2007–10, Disability Action Plan 2008–11, and occupational health and safety policies and practices.

Recruitment

The AEC demonstrates its commitment to the principle of 'reasonable adjustment' for staff or prospective staff with disabilities by:

  • following recruitment and selection guidelines that emphasise the principle
  • encouraging self-identification by applicants with disabilities, to allow assistance to be provided during the selection process and training programs
  • providing recruitment information in accessible formats on request
  • providing internal and, where appropriate, external review mechanisms to address concerns raised by staff.

The AEC's recruitment, retention and employment practices are consistent with best practice in the Australian Public Service. Current AEC practices are benchmarked against Australian Public Service Commission guidelines, including:

  • the 2006 Management Advisory Committee report Employment of people with disability in the APS, particularly Objective 8: Continuous improvement in recruiting and retaining people with disability
  • the 2007 good practice guide Ability at work: tapping the talent of people with a disability.

The AEC Workplace Diversity Plan 2007–10 promotes a culture that supports employment of people with disabilities. In 2008–09, the AEC took part in the Year 12 Career Starters Program, administered by the Department of Finance and Deregulation, which provides opportunities for school students with disabilities.

The AEC ensures that selection panel members understand access and equity issues that may have an impact on people with disabilities in the recruitment process. The AEC is also developing training material for selection panel members that will include considerations for employment of people with disabilities.

Training

The AEC's internal training programs include information on disability issues where relevant. For example, the Training of polling staff manuals emphasises effective communication with and service to electors who have disabilities. External training courses used by the AEC are arranged with reputable providers who know that attention must be paid to relevant disability issues.

Facilities

The AEC supports employees with disabilities by providing adaptive technology, such as TTY (telephone typewriter voice-activated software) phonic ear systems, phone alert systems and telephone headsets, flexible work arrangements, tailored job design, and convenient parking spaces. Additional practical support is provided through the AEC Organisation Health Team.

The AEC Property Plan identified three offices with access issues in 2008–09. Strategies to address the identified issues include:

  • relocating offices to premises that meet disabled access requirements
  • negotiating with the landlord to correct access problems (for example, by installing a ramp)
  • installing door-opening mechanisms.

The fit-out of AEC offices is being undertaken by professional project managers to ensure that compliance issues are addressed.