Resource 1 – Seale (2006) Chapter 4
Legislation on online accessibility is still in its infancy (Seale, 2006). ‘Random websites had become progressively inaccessible through the years, whilst the complexity of the websites had increased.’ (Seale, 2006). Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG-1 and WCAG-) give developers clear guidelines on how a site should be built in order to be accessible.
Locally, I think that the introduction of standards, guidelines and legislation most importantly the setting up of the Equal Opportunities Compliance Unit (KNPD) has had a positive impact on accessibility. From its inception this unit, has collaborated with non-government organisations in Malta, co-ordinating efforts and voicing the Maltese government policies on disability matters. Still, as in other countries, much work needs to be done.
Resource 2 – (Making your teaching inclusive, 2006)
The disability discrimination act specifies that a ‘student only has to declare a disability, there is no legal requirement for them to prove it. An HE institution that did not act on such a declaration would not be able to use as a defence the fact that no evidence was produced’.
Part 5a of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) represents a new approach. It focuses on institutional change rather than adjustments for individuals.
Through such legislation, both disabled students and educational institutions have to benefit. Through legislation, institutions are given guidelines through which they may enhance the learning experience offered to their students. Through such legislation, the students know that they have rights (outline in legislation) with which the institution needs to fulfil. Institutions are required to publish a Disability Equality Scheme (DES) and an associated three-year action plan and provide an annual report on progress. Thus disabled students benefit more from legislation as they are assured of their right for education. Legislation assures that barriers are removed and the proper support structures are set up in order to minimise disabling factors. For example ,the DDA requires ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be made by institutions in order to alleviate or remove the effects of a ‘substantial disadvantage’.
‘An institution has a duty to anticipate the adjustments that disabled students or applicants might need and, where feasible, to put these adjustments in place in advance.’
‘A student is not obliged to disclose a disability. However, an institution is expected to take reasonable steps to find out if a student is disabled and what their access requirements are. It is important that an institution creates an atmosphere in which the student feels safe to disclose such information.
Once a student has disclosed their disability, or once an institution might reasonably be expected to know about a student’s status (e.g. if their impairment is visible), there is a responsibility on the institution not to discriminate.’
In Malta, the Equal Opportunities Persons with Disability Act of 2000 covers all public and private educational facilities and services.Through some research, and with the feedback given by the Equal Opportunities Compliance Unit (KNPD), apart from this Act, the Education Act has been amended with issues regarding inclusion in educational contexts.
Need of such legislation to push home the case and to promote change. Through such legislation, both disabled students and educational institutions have to benefit. Through legislation, institutions are given guidelines through which they may enhance the learning experience offered to their students. Through such legislation, the students know that they have rights (outline in legislation) with which the institution needs to fulfil. Disabled students may be benefiting more from legislation as they are assured of their right for education. Legislation assures that barriers are removed and the proper support structures are set up in order to minimise disabling factors. For example, in the UK, the DDA requires ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be made by institutions in order to alleviate or remove the effects of a ‘substantial disadvantage’.
Malta is a signatory of this convention but is still to ratify the UN disability convention (Camilleri, 2011). This should be done by this year as Malta is seeking some minor amendments. These relate to points in this convention which may be interpreted as in conflict with Maltese legislation mainly abortion and the voting mechanism. Malta’s national legislation, considers the termination of pregnancy through induced abortion as illegal. Moreover, the Maltese government, ‘reserves the right to continue to apply its current electoral legislation in so far as voting procedures, facilities and materials are concerned’ and ‘reserves the right to continue to apply its current electoral legislation in so far as assistance in voting procedures is concerned.’
Some important, related points from the UN Enable brief;
- ‘On the fundamental issue of accessibility (Article 9), the Convention requires countries to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers and ensure that persons with disabilities can access their environment, transportation, public facilities and services, and information and communications technologies.’
- Countries are to promote access to information by providing information intended for the general public in accessible formats and technologies, by facilitating the use of Braille, sign language and other forms of communication and by encouraging the media and Internet providers to make on-line information available in accessible formats (Article 21).
- States are to ensure equal access to primary and secondary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning. Education is to employ the appropriate materials, techniques and forms of communication. Pupils with support needs are to receive support measures, and pupils who are blind, deaf and deaf-blind are to receive their education in the most appropriate modes of communication from teachers who are fluent in sign language and Braille. Education of persons with disabilities must foster their participation in society, their sense of dignity and self worth and the development of their personality, abilities and creativity (Article 24).(United Nations, a)
Moreover, ‘No entity can achieve the goal of equality for persons with disabilities on its own’ where ‘every aspect of an organization’s activities must be analyzed to ensure accessibility and inclusion’. ‘A thorough analysis of every aspect of an organization must be is necessary to ensure accessibility and inclusion’ (United Nations, b).
The author highlights three main common factors;
- allocation of resources to implement with concrete actions and changes the legislation that government bodies have created.’
- Need of disabled persons to be active participants in the implementation of policies and legislation.
- Training in inclusion of persons in leading jobs (e.g. politicians)
Although disability may be included with other ‘minorities’ when tackling human rights and equal opportunities ,one must keep in mind that each minority may have its own specific needs. For disability, the issue of accessibility and thus of an accessible environment is crucial. Moreover, all stakeholders need to have the right attitude, whilst bringing down barriers.
Individuals and organisations need to understand their own rights and also respect their own legal responsibilities.
Camilleri (2011) Malta plans to ratify UN disability convention this year http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20110110/local/malta-plans-to-ratify-un-disability-convention-this-year.344657
WCAG, Available from: http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/wcag (accessed 20 September 2011).
Education Act ( ) CAP 327, http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/DownloadDocument.aspx?app=lom&itemid=8801&l=1 Available from: (accessed 20 September 2011).
Equal Opportunities Act (Persons with Disability), Available from: http://www.knpd.org/pubs/CHAPT413_EOA.pdf (accessed 20 September 2011).
United Nations ( a), The Convention in Brief , Available from: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=13&pid=162 (accessed 20 September 2011).
United Nations (b ), The Convention in Brief Powerpoint, Available from: http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/ppt/crpdbasics.ppt (accessed 20 September 2011).