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Government to guarantee equity for people with a disability

A strategy launched today commits all Commonwealth departments and agencies to encourage much broader participation by people with a disability in all aspects of community life.

The Minister for Human Services and Health, Dr Carmen Lawrence, released the Commonwealth Disability Strategy in Sydney today, promising to include people with a disability in the planning and delivery of all Commonwealth services and facilities.

"There are too many talented people excluded from community activities, simply because their needs were not considered at the planning stages," Dr Lawrence said.

"Proper planning and consultation can often overcome the barriers which make services and facilities inaccessible for people with a disability."

Dr Lawrence said the Strategy underpins a commitment by all Commonwealth departments and agencies to eliminate barriers to the participation of people with a disability.

"The Government is committed to creating a system of public services which recognises the diversity of the community, and the Strategy provides a framework to ensure that this occurs."

The need to extend opportunities for participation is a fundamental principle of social justice, Dr Lawrence said.

"People with a disability have the same basic rights as other Australians," she said.

"By acting to guarantee these rights in practice, the Commonwealth is reaffirming its commitment to giving all Australians a fair go.

"For instance, people with a disability are often prevented from full and informed participation in elections because they can't get into polling booths, because there are no ballot papers in Braille, or because information about candidates is not presented in accessible formats for people with a disability.

"People with a disability have much to contribute to the political, social and economic life of this country."

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy, launched on the closing day of the World Assembly of Disabled Peoples' International in Sydney today, is a 10-year plan to enable every Commonwealth department and agency to incorporate the needs of people with a disability into their activities.

"We will ensure that people with disabilities have the same access to Commonwealth Government buildings, information, programs, systems, services and employment, as every other Australian," Dr Lawrence said.

Under the Strategy, all Commonwealth departments and agencies must immediately start identifying and dismantling structural and systematic barriers to the participation of people with a disability.

"From August 1995, all Commonwealth departments must give regular progress reports to the government, and there will be a thorough review of the Strategy in 1998," Dr Lawrence said.

Dr Lawrence said she expected this Strategy, developed in co-operation with people with a disability, to send a clear signal to the world that Australia is committed to meeting its international obligations under the United Nations Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

"The release of this Strategy coincides with an increasing global recognition that people with a disability should play a more active role in the communities in which they live," she said.

"We are removing the barriers which prevent many people with a disability from participating fully in Australian life and we will ensure that their needs are an integral part of policy development, planning and service delivery across all Commonwealth government activity."

The Strategy will also assist government departments to meet their obligations under the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

The Australian Disability Consultative Committee, the group responsible for providing the Minister for Human Services and Health with a community perspective on disability issues, will monitor the ongoing development and implementation of the strategy.


Brenda Conroy (06) 277 220

Megan Mitchell, Office of Disability (06) 289 8432