How can we support CALD communities through the NDIS roll out?

August 2, 2017

Aiming for equitable access

Approximately 21.9% of people with a disability come from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background in Australia. From that number, only a small proportion, around 2.5% are current disability services recipients.

Is it a lack of awareness, lack of engagement with CALD communities, overly complex processes or an information access problem?

The issue of equitable access is again front and centre as the NDIS in its third year, continues to roll out.

Engaging CALD communities

There is a fair amount of information available for both providers and participants regarding the NDIS. The NDIA, NDS and government departments provide a mountain of guides, toolkits and media materials. Some of these resources are available in other languages to aid CALD participants overcome the language barriers.

No one really disputes the good intentions behind these resources, rather as Diana Qian, President of the Diversity and Disability Alliance, highlighted in her article ‘A view from the back of the bus: a reflection on the need for a culturally responsive NDIS‘, that these passive modes of information sharing is not going to be enough to get people from CALD backgrounds to embrace the NDIS.

Great efforts have been made recently to address the small percentage of CALD NDIS participants. This includes the recent funding given to AMPARO Advocacy by the Targeted Strategies Participant Readiness Initiative from the QLD Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability to increase NDIS awareness activities within CALD communities.

The work and services by organisations such as AMPARO Advocacy, EOSCC and state counterparts such as QOSCC cannot be overstated. Their individual advocacy services, community workshops and events are key to bridging the gap between participants, providers and NDIS system.

The role of service providers to bring the NDIS to CALD communities

At a service level, providers will be key in improving people with disability from CALD backgrounds to embrace the NDIS. Technology has certainly made it easier to share information, connect and delivery services. The implementation of technology systems will however, have little impact if the information and processes are not tailored for participants. So, what can be done to improve NDIS communications and uptake at a service level?

Evaluate digital assets and processes

On a more general level:

  • Simple things like making sure your website is W3C compliant and is easy to use on smartphones and tablets.
  • Offering alternative versions to information such as large print materials
  • Providing screen reader and translation friendly documents, applications and forms
  • Improving your websites load time and decreasing page sizes, so regional participants with low bandwidth requirements can still access your information.
  • Going beyond the above technical practices, evaluating how your content can be designed to make the information and processes clearer, simpler and more accessible for participants.
  • Obtaining feedback from your current clients, staff and key stakeholders will be useful in identifying gaps in your processes and help you develop solutions so people with disability have an easier time navigating NDIS system with you.

Promote cultural diversity

  • Work with CALD organisations to understand the additional barriers that restricts people from non-English backgrounds from accessing information and support services. Doing so, can inform your communication strategy and shape your processes to participants needs.
  • Support CALD advocacy organisations by promoting and advocating their services, use of translating and interpreting services.
  • Embrace diversity in your workforce. The NDIS has ignited a surge of organisations seeking talent. Ensuring that your organisation recognises the value of a diverse workforce and can help overcome barriers that exist between CALD backgrounds and your organisation.
  • Look for opportunities to partner with CALD service providers or CALD advocacy organisations. Doing so helps ensure cultural inclusiveness at a service level and can make the process of receiving support easier to digest for participants. Business wise, such partnerships can also help you reach out to people from CALD backgrounds who have yet to embrace the NDIS.

Evaluating your digital and information assets, systems and processes may be a challenge, but it is a necessary step to ensure that all people with a disability, not just from CALD backgrounds have access to quality and efficient services, so they can exercise greater ‘choice and control’ on what services will best support their lifestyle and goals.