Correspondence sent out by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to its participants will now be accessible to the blind or vision impaired community.
Following a strong advocacy effort by Blind Citizens Australia and disability advocates, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will implement changes over the next few months, allowing participants to choose their preferred communication method.
Previously, blind or vision impaired NDIS participants were receiving written letters or were directed to PDFs which were not compatible with most screen readers, meaning participants couldn’t access, understand or read their plan or relevant NDIS communications.
Disability advocates took to Twitter to voice their concerns.
“Stories like this one often sound like the premise for a Monty Python sketch. But it's no joke for those disrespected and disadvantaged by the thoughtlessness and lack of empathetic, user-centric design too often apparent in Government 'service' delivery,” Thérèse Murray says.
“Australia, get your act together,” Kate Goodwin says.
NDIS correspondence is expected to be available in large font, audio, electronic text (e-text) and braille formats by the end of August 2019, a welcome move by many.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of Blind Citizens Australia, Rikki Chaplin labelled the move a “tremendously important step forward for people who are blind or vision impaired” after the peak body raised the issue three years ago.
Mr Chaplin explains, “Access to information is often the only thing that prevents a person who is blind or vision impaired from carrying out tasks and activities that they otherwise could.
“To be able to easily read your NDIS plan is vital if you’re going to be able to take full advantage of the supports in your plan.
“I congratulate the NDIA on ensuring that people who are blind or vision impaired will have reliable and consistent access to their plans in the format which is right for them.”
Manager Government Relations and Advocacy of Vision Australia, Chris Edwards says the NDIS is designed to give people with a disability choice and control around the support services they receive.
“For this to be possible, it’s vital that people who are blind or have low vision are able to receive the NDIS packages or other correspondence or information in their preferred format,” he explains.
“Whether it’s braille, audio, large print or electronic text, providing this information in an accessible format means people who are blind or have low vision have the same ability as anyone else to make independent and informed choices about the support the receive and who they receive it from.”
Participants had reported delays and difficulties in getting correspondence in their chosen format up to now, requests for alternative methods were in the hands of NDIA planners.
Under these new changes, requested documents will be sent directly to an external accessible formal provider who will then prepare an accessible version and dispatch directly to the NDIS participant.
NDIS participants can also update their communication format preferences via an NDIS representative, the NDIS contact centre or on the Participant Portal.