'Passport' to equal opportunity for people with disability

By Stephen Easton

June 7, 2016

One of the most common barriers in the workplace for people with disability, especially when starting a new role, is sorting out any assistive technology or adjustments that need to be made.

The issue was picked up in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s recent inquiry, Willing to Work, which suggested a new procurement rule for public sector organisations: all new information and communication technology must meet an appropriate universal design standard.

The federal government hasn’t yet responded formally to that inquiry but the Australian Public Service Commission has recently launched a freshly updated disability strategy, As One: Making it Happen.

Among the revised tools, guidance on issues big and small and the informative video series is a measure that aims to smooth out the process of requesting “reasonable adjustments” that many people with disability need to go through, in order to have an equal chance of contributing to their fullest in the workplace.

People with disability — or with a temporary illness or injury — can use the optional “reasonable adjustment passport” to document their own personal set of approved special needs and adjustments, if they so choose. The APSC explains:

“This ensures that when there is a change in manager the key information about those reasonable adjustments is readily available.

“The Passport allows the employee to explain in their own words their circumstances, the difficulties they experience in the workplace and their specific needs to support them at work. The Passport is a tool to open up discussions with their manager regarding any adjustments they may require, including access to part time and flexible working arrangements.”

The new administrative tool comes with a guide for managers that refers back to the relevant policy that defines a “reasonable adjustment” in the APS. Under the policy, “the employee controls the amount of information they wish to disclose” and can keep the exact details of their illness, injury or disability private “unless it is likely to affect their ability to perform the essential duties of the position”.

The commission explains managers of employees who fill out the new form are responsible for:

  • engaging in discussions with the employee about the requirements of role and the reasonable adjustment(s) needed to support the employee to meet these;
  • supporting employees with illness, injury or disability to perform to the best of their ability;
  • maintaining confidentiality and privacy of the information the employee discloses; and
  • supporting employees to be aware of their rights and responsibilities in relation to reasonable adjustment.

The expectations of employees who choose to make use of the new system include:

  • notifying their manager of a need for reasonable adjustments in the workplace;
  • engaging in a discussion with their manager about the proposed reasonable adjustments(s);
  • providing the information contained in the Passport;
  • storing the Passport securely; and
  • participating in any assessments by treating practitioners or other allied health professionals where requested.

Getting everything in place to enable people with disability to contribute to their full potential is sometimes challenging, but it’s a fundamental foundation of strong and diverse teams.

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