WWDA Submission to the Telecommunications Service Inquiry 2000


The Telecommunications Service Inquiry was announced by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, on March 19 2000. The Inquiry was established to assess the adequacy of telecommunications services in metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas of Australia. This document is WWDA’s Submission to the Telecommunications Service Inquiry, and is based largely on the findings of a National Telecommunications Survey WWDA conducted in 1999. Copyright WWDA. April 2000.


1. About Women With Disabilities Australia

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with disabilities in Australia. It is a federating body of individuals and networks in each State and Territory of Australia and is made up of women with disabilities and associated organisations. WWDA is a woman centred organisation which works on a collective model. This means that decisions are made using a consensus approach. The national secretariat is located in Canberra. WWDA is run by women with disabilities, for women with disabilities. It is the only organisation of its kind in Australia and one of only a very small number internationally. WWDA is inclusive and does not discriminate against any disability.

WWDA seeks to ensure opportunities in all walks of life for all women with disabilities. In this it aims to increase awareness of, and address issues faced by, women with disabilities in the community. It links women with disabilities from around Australia, providing opportunities to identify and discuss issues of common concern. WWDA is at the forefront of advocacy with, and on behalf of, women with disabilities in Australia. WWDA’s major policy and program areas for 1998-99 include: violence against women with disabilities; improving access to information technologies for women with disabilities; leadership and mentoring; housing; ageing; health; links with the women’s movement; organisational development; development of State, Territory and Regional WWDA groups; and systemic advocacy.

More information about WWDA is provided in Appendix 1.


2. WWDA National Survey on Telecommunications and Women With Disabilities

In early 1999, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), the national peak body for women with all types of disabilities, undertook a small survey of its members to identify their experiences of, and concerns relating to telecommunications. There has been a groundswell of opinion and research highlighting the potential for telecommunications to improve living standards for women. However, none of this research has included the experiences and needs of women with disabilities in relation to telecommunications. Anecdotal evidence collected by WWDA indicates that access to telecommunications is a major area of inequity for women with disabilities. The Telecommunications Survey undertaken by WWDA was framed within a philosophy of disability rights and the social model of disability. It was not a ‘needs based’ survey, but rather came from a context of rights, which affirms that telecommunications should be available to all, and this includes women with disabilities.

The survey was distributed to approximately 700 women with disabilities around Australia. Respondents were given 4 weeks to complete and return the questionnaire. One hundred and seventy five responses were received. This represents a response rate of 26%.


3. WWDA Telecommunications Survey Findings – Executive Summary

3.1. The Social Model of Disability

Traditionally, disability has largely been understood in the context of the bio-medical model. It has been synonymous with personal tragedy, and has tended to concentrate on individuals’ medical conditions and/or impairments. An alternative model, and one much more acceptable to people with disabilities, is the social model of disability. The social model of disability views disability as a form of oppression which entails certain restrictions. Oliver argued this point when he said: “all disabled people experience disability as social restriction, whether these restrictions occur as a consequence of inaccessible built environments, questionable notions of intelligence and social competence, the inability of the general public to use sign language, the lack of reading material in Braille or hostile public attitudes to people with non-visible disabilities”.

Despite the fact that in Australia, 19% of the population is disabled and more than 50% of people with disabilities are women, women with disabilities continue to be categorised as a special interest group; their experience isolated from the mainstream and marginalised. Disabled women have had little opportunity to portray their experiences within the general culture or within political movements. Their experience is isolated and individualised and the definitions which society places on them focus on judgments of individual capacities and personalities.

3.2. The Survey Findings

The major themes which emerged from the survey responses were undoubtedly access and affordability issues, poor design and incompatibility of telecommunications equipment, lack of awareness of disability issues on the part of telecommunications service providers, lack of appropriate information about telecommunications equipment and services, and the importance of online communication for women with disabilities.

Telecommunications are vital for women with disabilities. For many, it is the means by which they link in with their community and retrieve their place in society. Telecommunications play a integral role in reducing isolation, stress and fatigue as well as alleviating loneliness for women with disabilities. It increases their independence, reduces dependence and enables opportunities for education and employment. For many women with disabilities, telecommunications allow them to have contact with their family and friends, to pay their bills, to do their banking and shopping, to arrange their personal care, to organise transport, to undertake study, and to access information. Telecommunications are also of vital importance in providing security and assisting with emergencies. Telecommunications enable women with disabilities to participate in, and take their rightful place in their community.

“Even when I am bed-bound, the telephone and the Internet have enabled me to still access people, information etc and given me the ability to contribute to the world.”

The most common pieces of telecommunications equipment used by women with disabilities are the standard phone and answering machine. The most highly desired pieces of equipment are computer with Internet access and the mobile phone.

“I would like to try using the Internet but I can’t afford a computer”.

The Internet is seen by many women with disabilities as an important accessibility aid to access mainstream information and services, as well as information to meet their specific needs as women with disabilities. The computer with Internet access is regarded by women with disabilities as a liberating asset and as a way of breaking down communication barriers. It allows them access to mainstream sources of information, it reduces their isolation and dependence and widens their access to family, friends, employers and information (for study, recreation, lobbying and general research).

“Through Internet newsgroups I met women from all parts of the world who had been through the same experience as me; my wonderful ‘on-line’ support network supports me…….Through the Web I was able to research and find information about my disability and also strategies to help me deal with it. The Internet is more useful to me than any doctor….”

For those women with disabilities who use the Internet, access remains a barrier. Dial up time charged by the hour can present problems for women who have trouble typing or coordinating a mouse. Similarly, participating in chat groups can be a problem for women who cannot type quickly enough to ‘keep up’. Graphic based websites are inaccessible to women with visual impairments. The costs associated with installing a second telephone line are often out of the reach of many women with disabilities. Accessing the Internet through public venues such as libraries is only an option for women with disabilities who have access to transport. For many women with disabilities, transport is an additional cost.

The greatest restrictions to Internet access for women with disabilities is affordability and lack of training. Nearly all respondents to the survey indicated that they would like to have access to a computer with Internet, but cited lack of funds as the major factor limiting access.

“The expense of the Internet makes it unattainable and leads to increased feelings of isolation.”

The biggest barrier to accessing telecommunications equipment is affordability. This includes cost of buying, as well as costs associated with running, servicing and maintenance of equipment. The costs associated with adaptive and assistive devices are also a problem. Affordability is also a barrier to accessing training (particularly computer and Internet training). Having a disability can often mean a reduced access to employment and therefore reduced income. At the same time it means increased reliance on telecommunication, yet many women with disabilities are simply not able to afford the telecommunications equipment which many non-disabled people take for granted.

Access to telecommunications equipment is further complicated for women with disabilities due to lack of information and instructions in alternative formats, including in braille, in electronic formats, in plain English and large size print.

The design of much telecommunications equipment and its placement (particularly in public areas) presents barriers to its use for women with disabilities. Many women with disabilities experience difficulties associated with using payphones, such as the excessive height, poorly designed coin and card insertion and change retrieval features, and poor sound quality. The standard push button phone is considered by many women with disabilities to be badly designed – button size too small, buttons too close together, poor key pad design, no volume control, and cords too short. Similarly, design of mobile phones is a problem for many women with disabilities. Many women with disabilities rely on mobile phones for increased independence and emergency and security. The mobile phone is becoming smaller and smaller in design and this is presenting difficulties for women with disabilities who have hand and mobility restrictions – for example, the buttons are now smaller and closer together which can make it increasingly difficult to use. Mobile phones are a problem for deaf and/or hearing impaired women as they are not compatible with hearing aids.

Almost all respondents to the survey registered as having ‘multiple disabilities’ with an average of 2 disabilities per respondent. Many respondents believe that the design of telecommunications equipment should reflect this. There is a belief amongst respondents that “equipment is not designed to consider the needs of people with disability.” There is an obvious need for people with disabilities to be more actively involved in the design of telecommunications equipment, and this includes standard equipment as well as adaptive devices.

Respondents to the survey offered a range of suggestions for improved design of telecommunications equipment for people with disabilities. Some of these included:

  • lightweight, non-breakable equipment;
  • voice operated mobile phones and fax machines;
  • phones with volume control on both speaker and receiver;
  • answering machines which can print out the messages;
  • water proof equipment, particularly mobile phones;
  • bigger font size on equipment;
  • equipment which enables hands-free operation;
  • speaker function on fax and answering machine;
  • improved volume control for mobile, standard, and cordless phones;
  • beeping cordless and mobile phones;
  • number dialled confirmation feature on phones;
  • audio feature on Automatic Teller Machines (ATM);
  • mobile phones which can be easily fitted to a wheelchair.

There is also a need for increased compatibility between adaptive devices and between adaptive devices and mainstream telecommunications equipment. Examples include: mobile phone incompatibility with hearing aids and, different headsets required for different phones.

“You should be able to use the same headset with any type of phone”.

The increasing number of automated services and procedures present difficulties for women with disabilities. For example, many women with disabilities need to utilise services such as Directory Assistance because they are unable to manage the standard telephone book. As one respondent to the survey stated:

“I can’t use the phone book because the entries are so small, the book is heavy, the pages are too fine and are hard to turn.”

Some women with disabilities therefore have no option but to use services such as Call Connect and/or Directory Assistance, yet are further disadvantaged by having to pay the costs associated with such services. For women with hearing impairment and/or memory difficulties, automated Directory Assistance can be a problem:

“Directory Assistance is now automated – if I cannot catch the number (due to hearing loss), I have to call back again – you can’t ask a machine to repeat!”

The proliferation of recorded messages is not only a frustration for women with disabilities but also presents a barrier to access:

“Button pushing is so hard for the disabled that (automated bill paying) must be seen as a form of discrimination.”

Queuing time in both government and private industry presents a similar difficulty. Telephone numbers containing eight or more digits present difficulties for many women with disabilities. Women with disabilities need bills (such as phone bills) to be understandable and the instructions to be in alternative formats.

It is clear that there is a general lack of awareness in society about disability issues. Given this, it is hardly surprising that women with disabilities experience ignorance and discrimination by telecommunications service providers. When experiencing telecommunications equipment problems, women with disabilities often return to the supplier of the service or equipment for assistance. Unfortunately, they very rarely receive a satisfactory response. All too often stonewalling, lack of understanding or outright poor staff attitudes make the process difficult. In too many cases, despite holding a Disability Support Pension, documentation is needed to substantiate eligibility to a product or service.

“They are completely ignorant about disability issues. They demand ‘proof’ which is usually about 6 different pieces, medical certificate etc. It is tiring and frustrating.” “They don’t understand the impact of multiple disabilities and associated problems.”

For women with disabilities, information about telecommunications equipment and services comes predominantly from networking with family and friends, from disability service providers or disability organisations. Very few women with disabilities are aware of the Telstra Disability Enquiry Hotline or the Australian Communication Exchange and the National Relay Service. There is also a lack of information for women with disabilities about carriers and Internet Service Providers. Women with disabilities have cited the need for more information about products and service available for them to use.

The need for the development and dissemination of telecommunications information is threefold. There is a need to develop information resources in accessible formats for women with disabilities about telecommunications issues, particularly information about services and products available for them to use, including complaints mechanisms. There is a need for telecommunications service providers to be better informed about telecommunications services and products available, particularly those for people with disabilities. And lastly, there is a need for telecommunications service providers to be better informed about disability issues and disability rights, including an understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Developing an understanding of the term ‘disability’ requires much more than just a definition of the sensory, physical, intellectual or psychiatric aspects. It involves an awareness and understanding of the ways that the dominant values and practices in our society operate to make having a disability an issue which affects a person’s image and their opportunities and choices in life.

“The (state name) Disability Service is a challenge. One has to be persistent to the point of rudeness. It took not only letters from my doctor and an audiologist report but my relatives’ constant telephoning to (carrier name) for me to get a volume control phone. The outcome was good but the procedure challenging.”

Telecommunications are vital for women with disabilities. They need to be accessible, affordable, acceptable and appropriate to women with disabilities. Women with disabilities must be actively involved in telecommunications research and in the design of telecommunications equipment.

“Telecommunications provide great opportunities for women with disabilities. They should be made much more accessible and affordable.”

“Telecommunications for women with disabilities are vital and should be regarded as a necessary service.”

“Providing telecommunications equipment to women with disabilities would facilitate their equal access to communication that all enjoy, and their full contribution to society.”


3.3. Recommendations

Affordability

1. Subsidy for purchase, operating and maintaining telecommunications equipment and training courses in its use, should be available to all recipients of the Disability Support Pension, and to women with disabilities from low income backgrounds.

2. Subsidised training courses in basic on-line computing skills need to be made available to women with disabilities through a range of training providers, including commercial Internet Training Providers, Centrelink, Adult Education, TAFE.

3. Internet Service Providers should offer lower rates for recipients of the Disability Support Pension and Health Care Card holders.

4. Funding should be made available to peak disability organisations to conduct computer and Internet training courses for their members.

5. A study should be undertaken into the feasibility of establishing state based Telecommunications Equipment Recycling Banks for women with disabilities and women on low incomes.

6. Call Connect and Directory Assistance should be free to people with disabilities.

7. Mobile phone/standard phone bill subsidy should be made available to people with disabilities.

8. Telecommunications equipment should be exempt from Sales Tax for people with disabilities, particularly to recipients of the Disability Support Pension, and people with disabilities from low income backgrounds.


Equipment Design

1. Hand held equipment needs to be as light as possible and non-breakable. Push buttons need to be separated from each other, and carry large, legible numbers.

2. Designers of telecommunications equipment need training to raise awareness about the limitations which disabilities bring.

3. People with a range of disabilities, including women with multiple disabilities should be involved in the design and trialing of telecommunications equipment.

4. Builders, architects and city planners need training to raise awareness that keypads/coincard slot and under-bench access to public phones is essential. Placement of public telephones must be done with input from people with disabilities.

5. There needs to be a mobile phone designed which is able to be used by people with hand and co-ordination restrictions. Similarly, a mobile phone needs to be designed which is compatible with hearing aids.

6. People with disabilities need to be involved in reviewing adaptive devices and advising on ways to improve compatibility of telecommunications equipment, including adaptive devices.


Access

1. Internet Service Providers who are offering Internet Training courses need to ensure that their training is accessible to women with disabilities. Internet Training Providers should ensure that software is available which enables blind and/or visually impaired women to access Internet training.

2. There needs to be an extension of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to all service providers to cover the need for installation of a second phone line for people with disabilities who are otherwise isolated (eg: rural, remote and socially isolated).

3. A study should be undertaken into the feasibility of establishing state based Telecommunications Equipment Recycling Banks for women with disabilities and women on low incomes.

4. Public venues offering Internet access (such as Internet Cafes and public libraries) need to ensure accessibility for women with disabilities. This would include the need for accessible hours of operation, subsidised access rates, and accessible computers, venues and related equipment.

5. Instructions for telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) need to be provided in accessible formats including: in Plain English, on cassette tape, on disc, in braille, in large print. Printed instructions should include the use of diagrams.


Service Provider Responsibilities

1. Telecommunications Service Providers need to develop an awareness and understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Women with disabilities who are in receipt of the Disability Support Pension should not be made to provide additional ‘evidence’ of their disability in order to purchase services and/or products.

2. Government departments and private industry using recorded messages and processes, and queuing facilities need to incorporate an option for those people who are unable (for whatever reason) to access these methods.

3. Automatic account payment facilities need a business hours contact where details can be given verbally.

4. There needs to be an extension of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to all service providers to cover the need for installation of a second phone line for people with disabilities who are otherwise isolated (eg: rural, remote and socially isolated).

5. Internet Service Providers who are offering Internet Training courses need to ensure that their training is accessible to women with disabilities. Internet Training Providers should ensure that software is available which enables blind and/or visually impaired women to access Internet training.

6. A national database of available telecommunications equipment and services for people with disabilities should be established and service providers should be trained in its use in order to ensure information given to people with disabilities is up to date and accurate.

7. Information about telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) and services needs to be provided in accessible formats including: in Plain English, on cassette tape, on disc, in braille, in large print. Printed information should include the use of diagrams where possible.

8. People with disabilities should be given priority in repair and maintenance schedules.


Training

1. Funding should be made available to peak disability organisations to conduct computer and Internet training courses for their members.

2. Carriers and ISP’s need to acquaint retailers/technicians in the range of equipment available and adaptations to suit the needs of particular and multiple disabilities.

3. Telecommunications Service Providers need to undertake training to develop an awareness and understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

4. Telstra Disability Hotline staff should be required to undertake Disability Awareness Training as a requirement of their job.

5. Subsidised training courses in basic on-line computing skills need to be made available to women with disabilities through a range of training providers, including commercial Internet Training Providers, Centrelink, Adult Education, TAFE.

6. Internet Service Providers who are offering Internet Training courses need to ensure that their training is accessible to women with disabilities. Internet Training Providers should ensure that software is available which enables blind and/or visually impaired women to access Internet training.


Representation

1. Funding should be provided to enable the consideration and interests of women with all types of disabilities in the development of government and industry policy in relation to telecommunications. Women with disabilities must be adequately represented on forums such as the Australian Communications Industry Forum Disability Advisory Body, and the Australian Communication Authority Consumer Consultative Forum and their associated working parties.

2. Telecommunications product developers and service providers need to ensure people with disabilities are adequately represented on relevant Advisory bodies, management committees and so on.

3. People with disabilities need to be involved in reviewing adaptive devices and advising on ways to improve compatibility of telecommunications equipment, including adaptive devices.

4. People with a range of disabilities, including women with multiple disabilities should be involved in the design and trialing of telecommunications equipment.


Information

1. Peak Disability Advocacy organisations should be funded to provide information in their Newsletters about Telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) services, and mechanisms for complaints.

2. Peak Disability Advocacy organisations should be funded to work with Telecommunications Service Providers to develop accessible and appropriate information for people with disabilities about telecommunications equipment and services.

3. Instructions for telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) need to be provided in accessible formats including: in Plain English, on cassette tape, on disc, in braille, in large print. Printed instructions should include the use of diagrams.

4. A national database of available telecommunications equipment and services for people with disabilities should be established and service providers should be trained in its use in order to ensure information given to people with disabilities is up to date and accurate.

5. Information about telecommunications equipment (including adaptive devices) and services needs to be provided in accessible formats including: in Plain English, on cassette tape, on disc, in braille, in large print. Printed information should include the use of diagrams where possible.


For more information on the WWDA Telecommunications and Women With Disabilities Survey, contact Carolyn Frohmader, WWDA Executive Director on (02) 62421310 or via email on wwda@wwda.org.au. The full report is available from the WWDA National Office.

Women With Disabilities Australia
PO Box 605, Rosny Park
Tasmania, 7018, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 62448288
Fax: + 61 3 62448255
email: wwda@wwda.org.au
Executive Director: Carolyn Frohmader
Office Hours: Monday through Friday 9.00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m


Appendix One: About Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA)

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is the peak organisation for women with disabilities in Australia. It is a federating body of individuals and networks in each State and Territory of Australia and is made up of women with disabilities and associated organisations. WWDA is a woman centred organisation which works on a collective model. This means that decisions are made using a consensus approach. The national secretariat is located in Canberra. WWDA is run by women with disabilities, for women with disabilities. It is the only organisation of its kind in Australia and one of only a very small number internationally. WWDA is inclusive and does not discriminate against any disability.

WWDA seeks to ensure opportunities in all walks of life for all women with disabilities. In this it aims to increase awareness of, and address issues faced by, women with disabilities in the community. It links women with disabilities from around Australia, providing opportunities to identify and discuss issues of common concern. The objectives of the organisation include:

  • to develop a network of women with disabilities throughout Australia to work together for their mutual benefit;
  • to advocate for every woman with a disability to have the opportunity for true involvement in all levels of society;
  • to develop leadership and the sharing of responsibilities to enable women with disabilities to take their place in whatever section of society they choose;
  • to change social attitudes, practices, and power relationships which discriminate against women with disabilities;
  • to lobby for the implementation of procedures and enactment of legislation which will advance and benefit all women with disabilities and combat sexism;
  • to inform and educate the public with a view to advancing the opportunities for women in the political, creative, civil and social fields.

WWDA has a comprehensive understanding of issues for people with disabilities, particularly women. WWDA has a commitment to providing employment and training opportunities for women with disabilities. This means that where possible, WWDA employs women with disabilities to conduct projects, undertake consultations etc. Women with disabilities manage WWDA projects and programs and provide consultancy services to the organisation as required. The philosophy of WWDA asserts that women with disabilities be equitably remunerated for their work and expertise, including for their input into consultative and review processes; management and advisory committees, reference and working groups.

Management

WWDA is managed by a National Executive Committee, which is elected each year at the Annual General Meeting. There are 12 members on the Committee, including at least 1 representative from each State and Territory branch. All members are women with disabilities.

The National Secretariat is managed on a day to day basis by an Executive Director, who reports directly to the National Executive Committee. There is a branch of WWDA in each State and Territory of Australia (6 States and 2 Territories), including a regional WWDA Group in Newcastle. All the State and Territory branches operate on a voluntary level. Contact details for State, Territory and Regional WWDA branches can be obtained by contacting the National WWDA Office. The national WWDA office employs 2 staff – one full time Executive Officer and 1 part time bookkeeper. The national WWDA office also provides opportunities for women with disabilities on JobStart and Disability Employment Programs.

Membership of WWDA

There are three classes of membership of WWDA: full membership, organisation membership and associate membership. Full membership of WWDA is open to all women with a disability who live in a State or Territory of Australia (including Australia’s External Territories). Organisation membership is open to organisations which are supportive of the aim and objectives of WWDA, and/or a majority of whose membership are women with a disability or have a proportionally large, active group of women with disabilities within it. Associate membership is open to any other person or organisation supportive of the aim and objectives of WWDA. Membership is also free to those who are unable to pay. No person has to ‘prove’ they re unable to pay – it is listed as an option on the WWDA membership form and those who become members yet are unable to pay, receive the same benefits as paying members.

The total membership of WWDA is currently, approximately 1900. Membership is made of individuals and organisations. WWDA has, and continues to, establish partnerships and alliances with a range of organisations in order to better meet the needs of women with disabilities in Australia. WWDA has established links with a number of relevant international organisations and now has a recognised international presence. WWDA is committed to developing strategic alliances with organisations and fostering collaborative approaches to projects and activities.

Funding

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is funded on an annual basis by the Department of Health and Family Services through the Office of Disability. WWDA receives $112,000 each year under the Research and Development Grants Program in the Office of Disability. At the end of each financial year WWDA is required to submit a detailed audit of expenses to the Office of Disability, along with an end of year Grant report and a detailed submission for the next years funding. WWDA is also required to submit a mid-term grant report to the Office of Disability. WWDA’s operational funds of $112,00 are paid in four installments over each financial year.

Other sources of funds for WWDA come from grants project funding, a small amount from donations, and some from membership fees.

Grants are administered through the National WWDA office, which is located in Canberra. WWDA has a written contact with the funding body for its main grant, and any project grants are also managed with a written agreement between WWDA and the project funders. The financial management of the organisation is done on a daily basis by a Bookkeeper who works in the National WWDA Office. WWDA also has an accountant and auditor who oversees the financial management of the organisation. A financial report is prepared for the National Executive Committee every 4 weeks and is ratified by the WWDA Treasurer. All grants received by WWDA are audited at the completion of each grant. An audited statement, along with a detailed grant report, are provided by WWDA to the funding body. The audited statements are also made available to WWDA members, and detailed information on the WWDA finances are provided in an Annual Report.

WWDA Policy and Program Areas

WWDA works to respond to issues and needs identified by its members. It is a proactive organisation that works hard to effect systemic change for women with disabilities at all levels of society. To this end, it works closely with all levels of government in order to influence policy and legislation that incorporates the needs and issues of women with disabilities. It works closely with mainstream organisations to ensure that these organisations work towards eliminating discrimination against women with disabilities.

WWDA operates as both a national women’s organisation and a national disability advocacy organisation. This means that WWDA often works on policy and program areas that affect women, and on policy and program areas that affect people with a disability.

WWDA works hard to identify and address the needs and issues of its membership. WWDAWWDA initiates and undertakes research, using qualitative and quantitative methodologies, to identify the needs of women with disabilities in Australia. The organisation also participates in research being conducted through other organisations and institutions. Analysis of research conducted by WWDA informs the development of the organisations policy and programs. As well as formalised and dedicated research initiatives, WWDA also provides a range of mechanisms and opportunities which enable members to raise issues of concern of them.

As an organisation, WWDA has been structured to ensure maximum participation of grass roots membership in decision making processes. This is a fundamental principle underpinning the philosophy of the organisation. It is the obligation of each State/Territory delegate to consult with their membership about decisions. In addition, individual members join the national organisation directly, and are eligible to join issue-based working groups and community-based networks. Communication between the national group and individual members is maintained through the quarterly newsletter, intermittent mailouts, by use of telephone, fax and electronic mail, and other mechanisms such as surveys, evaluation processes etc.

WWDA members are given opportunities to represent the organisation on a range of Committees, Advisory Boards, Organisation Management Boards etc.

Women with disabilities are involved in evaluation of all WWDA programs and activities. WWDA believes this is a fundamental component of any program, project and activity and is an important part of service planning and development. It is also vital in ensuring accountability to both WWDAWWDA members and the funding body. At a broader level, members of the organisation are given many opportunities to have input to all programs and activities conducted by WWDA. There are several ways this occurs:

  • WWDA undertakes random sample surveys of its members to gauge members attitudes to the performance of the organisation;
  • the WWDA Newsletter offers information on mechanisms available to members to have direct input to the organisation;
  • each State/Territory branch of WWDA provides monthly reports to the National Executive Committee;
  • WWDA regularly advertises for WWDA members to participate in Advisory bodies, Committees, Reference Groups and so on;
  • notices are given to all WWDA members of upcoming meetings, including ways they can have input to the meetings;
  • all WWDA members are invited to participate in the Annual General Meeting of the organisation; etc.

WWDA’s priority policy and program areas include:

  • Violence Against Women With Disabilities (including Sterilisation)
  • Leadership and Mentoring
  • Telecommunications (including Information Technology)
  • Ageing
  • Human Rights
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Links with the Women’s Movement
  • Systemic Advocacy
  • Organisational Development
  • Development of State, Territory and Regional WWDA Groups

WWDA’s policy and program direction is detailed each year in its Strategic and Business Plan. The Strategic Plan includes: Goal Statements; Key and Continuing Strategies; Targets and Timelines; Resource Implications; Performance Indicators.

WWDA Organisational Affiliations

WWDA is committed to developing strategic alliances with organisations and fostering collaborative approaches to projects and activities. Some of the organisations WWDA works in partnership with include: the Women’s Emergency Services Network (WESNET); Womensport Australia; the Australian Women’s Health Network (AWHN); Disabled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN); the Network of Women’s Services (NEWS); CAPOW; and many others.

WWDA is a member organisation of the National Caucus of Disability Consumer Organisations. The National Caucus of Disability Consumer Organisations was established in August 1995. The Caucus meets 4 times each year and works collaboratively on activities and projects to promote the needs of people with disabilities. The Caucus liaises closely with governments and advises government on policy, programs and service delivery affecting people with disabilities. Caucus members include the ten peak consumer groups in the disability sector and its functions are:

  • information sharing and networking amongst its members; and
  • collective campaign action and representation to government on issues affecting people with disabilities.