Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Outcome 1

Report on performance: Outcome 2

Report on performance: Outcome 3

Management and accountability



Financial statements

Providing access for people with disabilities

Updated: 25 November 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 is 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 provides a workplace that is accessible to people with disabilities, including staff members, prospective staff members and visitors to AEC premises.

The action plan's objectives are 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.

The AEC reported on the implementation of the 2008–11 action plan at a May 2010 meeting of the Disability Advisory Committee. The report focused on additional achievements since the first report. The committee did not raise specific issues regarding the plan or report. However, it did open discussion, with representatives from state electoral commissions also in attendance, about how best to progress other more difficult and complex reform issues not covered in the plan.

Return to top

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 provides policy advice to the Special Minister of State and federal, state and territory government agencies regarding the administration of the Electoral Act.

The AEC's advice is informed by consultations with people with disabilities.

The Disability Advisory Committee meets at least once a year, to:

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

In May 2010, the AEC met with the Disability Advisory Committee to discuss a range of issues and to provide its second report on the implementation of the Disability Action Plan 2008–11. State electoral commissions were invited to participate in the meeting, and representatives from New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia attended.

In 2009–10, a major focus of activity under the Disability Action Plan 2008–11 was working with a reference group of representative organisations to develop options to assist people who are blind or have low vision to vote secretly and independently. The collaboration devised an interim method that was accepted by the government and presented to parliament through the Electoral and Referendum (Pre-poll Voting and Other Measures) Bill 2010, which was passed by the Senate on 17 June 2010.


In 2009–10, 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 physically incapable of signing an enrolment application to instead provide a medical certificate to establish their entitlement to enrol
  • certain electors who are unable to attend a polling place on polling day to register as general postal voters.

Application forms for these enrolment and registration options are available from the AEC website.

The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Pre-poll Voting and Other Measures) Bill 2010 provides for electronic updating of an elector's enrolment. This provision will remove the need for an elector to sign a written notice and post it to the AEC to update their address details on the roll.


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

During 2009–10, the AEC purchased equipment for polling places for the next federal election. Out of a total of 147 588 voting screens purchased in 2009–10, approximately 12 percent were specifically designed for use by electors with disabilities:

  • 11 550 screens for electors needing to sit at a table to complete their ballot papers
  • 5 700 screens for more general disabled access.


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

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

In 2009–10, the AEC reviewed its likely polling places for the next federal election, to increase the number of polling places with access for people with disabilities and to improve the quality of the access available.

The Electoral and Referendum (Pre-poll Voting and Other Measures) Bill 2010 includes provisions to allow people who are blind or have low vision to vote by telephone from more than 130 sites across Australia. The voting option will be available for those voters at the next federal election.

The AEC's 2009–10 property plan did not identify any specific facilities that required refurbishment to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. However, the requirements of the Act were taken into consideration at all sites that were refurbished, as part of the normal fit-out activities.

In 2009–10, the AEC continued to make enrolment processes as convenient as possible for all electors, especially those with disabilities. Enrolment information and personal enrolment details were accessible through the AEC website. The AEC provides two mechanisms, the PDF enrolment form version and the AEC SmartForm, which are also accessible through the AEC website.

While the AEC website meets the Australian Government's 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.

The AEC will distribute general voting information, in the form of the Federal Election Guide in audio cassette, Braille or large-print format, to over 26 000 electors. The AEC is working with the National Information and Library Service so that election material can be sent to the service's subscribers.

Voting information will be available on the AEC website as an audio file and large-print file. Candidate information will be available for each state and territory as an audio cassette, in Braille or as a large-print file on the AEC website, and will be distributed by the AEC on request.

The AEC uses the National Relay Service (NRS) so that the people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment or speech impairment can contact the AEC by telephone. Usually the caller types on a device called a TTY or telephone typewriter voice-activated software and a relay officer at the NRS call centre reads their words out to the AEC staff member. The relay officer then types the response back to the caller. The relay officer acts as a bridge between the caller and the AEC. They stay on the line throughout the call, to help it go smoothly, and do not intrude on the conversation.


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 the AEC Enterprise Agreement 2010–11, Disability Action Plan 2008–11, and occupational health and safety policies and practices.


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 strategies to provide an inclusive work environment that allows all employees to contribute to their full potential. In particular, the AEC recognises that all employees should be able to negotiate and agree on flexible work arrangements which meet the organisation's needs and assist employees to participate in the workforce and balance work and life responsibilities. In 2009–10, the AEC offered:

  • capacity for employees to negotiate and agree on working arrangements which allow the AEC to deliver its services more flexibly, with the introduction of agreed working hours
  • part-time work
  • home-based work
  • access to two weeks paid 'parental' leave for fathers following the birth of a child.

In 2010, the AEC participated in the Australian Public Service Commission's Indigenous Graduate Recruitment Program. Participating agencies had the opportunity to be involved in the selection processes and to engage Indigenous graduates for the 2011 program. The AEC will engage one graduate to be part of the 2011 AEC Graduate Program.

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. In 2009–10, the AEC reviewed all recruitment and selection processes, policies and procedures, to provide a greater emphasis on candidate care, with particular emphasis on encouraging and supporting candidates with disabilities. These mechanisms will assist candidates who have identified that they have learning, mobility, speech, hearing or other difficulties, to ensure merit principles are applied and candidates are provided with the utmost support when competing for positions within the AEC.


The AEC's internal training programs include information on disability issues where relevant. For example, the Training of polling staff manual 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.


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 OHS Team.

The fit-out of AEC offices is being undertaken by professional project managers to ensure that compliance issues are addressed. Further information can be found at Appendix C.