Equity-oriented feedback: meaningful consultation with people with disabilities

Stories | December 11, 2023 | Author: Stevie Wills, CBM Associate

If a society is to move towards equity, it must seek and be shaped by open communication with, and input from those who are marginalised.

Equity cannot be achieved without the contributions of people with disabilities; their experiences, insights and feedback. To support this, it essential that feedback mechanisms are accessible to all people and are meaningful.

The assistance of my regular support workers enables me to live on my own with independence and choice. However, when a fill-in support worker belittled me and overrode my instructions as to how to support me, I was left feeling deeply uncomfortable.

This experience was far from ideal, but its impact on me could have been reduced had the process of feedback and response with the support worker agency been appropriate, accessible and equity oriented. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

After that horrible day, I emailed the agency, telling them that the support worker hadn’t related to me as a competent adult and described her belittling language. I didn’t receive a reply. Then, a few days later, I received a text message telling me that a different support worker would be coming to my house the following Sunday.

I still felt too fragile to be assisted by somebody I didn’t know, so I cancelled that service and gratefully accepted my friends’ offer to help instead.

Shortly after that, my regular support worker left the agency. Again, I merely received a text messaging telling me that a new worker had been arranged for Wednesdays.

With my negative experience going unacknowledged by the agency, I felt powerless and vulnerable. I was being selectively communicated to by the agency I depended on. I was highly stressed and restless at night for a couple of weeks as I sought advice and navigated the transition to a different support service.

The agency had previously valued my voice, concerns and ensuring appropriate services. It seemed they now had other priorities.

To move towards equity requires the insights and feedback of people with disabilities.

Practical ways to develop accessible feedback mechanisms and to approach engagement in an accessible way include:

  • Informing participants ahead of time of the purpose and means of complaint feedback methods.
  • Clearly communicating how participants should expect to hear back about results and on what timeframe.
  • Before obtaining consultation and feedback, investigate the barriers people with disabilities might face and endeavour to remove them.
  • Provide minimum accessibility standards for online and in-person consultations, including sign language interpreters, subtitles, large print and easy-to-read documents.
  • Consult people with disabilities who have different impairments, genders, ages, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and sexualities.

Open communication and seeking the input of people with disabilities will facilitate a society’s moving towards equity. More insightful consultation can be gained when adequate preparations are made, and the accessibility of mechanisms are ensured.

About Stevie Wills

Since 2011 Stevie has worked for CBM Australia as a volunteer, employee and an associate. She has advocated for the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities in low- to middle-income countries, as well as disability inclusion among Christian communities in Australia. Stevie speaks of inclusion and empowerment, with a focus on people with disabilities. She has a passion for the power of words to create social change. 

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