This Access and Equity Policy sets out how Australian Training School Pty Ltd (ATS) is committed to access and equity in vocational education and training.
What is Equity?
Equity is about ensuring that all people have the supports that they need to access, participate and achieve to the same level. Equity is not the same as Equal Opportunity which is about making sure that people are not discriminated against and treated unfairly on the basis of difference. Equal opportunity focuses on everyone having an equal start whilst equity focuses on participation and achievement to an equal level.
What are Equity Groups?
In the past certain groups of people were actively not included in education and training programs. Sometimes it was a deliberate exclusion whilst others were based on misunderstanding or lack of forethought. Historically these groups became known as equity groups in order to highlight their situations and address the disadvantage they clearly experienced and continue to experience today. Some groups of people are still under represented in vocational programs and employment.
These groups include:
- Aboriginal people
- People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- People with disabilities
- People living in rural and remote areas
- People without adequate literacy and numeracy skills
- Offenders (including young offenders) and prisoners
- People of low socio-economic status
- Unemployed people aged over 45 years
However it needs to be remembered that none of these groups is homogenous and there will be members of these groups who do not experience any disadvantage while others will experience multiple levels of disadvantage.
What is Diversity?
Diversity is the recognising and valuing of individual differences. If we don’t offer all people the opportunity to develop and use their skills and abilities then we are denying the community access to much needed resources.
What is Access and Equity?
Access and Equity is about removing barriers and opening up opportunities. In relation to training it means ensuring that people with different needs and abilities have the same opportunities to successfully gain skills, knowledge and experience through education and training irrespective of their age, disability, colour, race, gender, religion, sexuality, family responsibilities, or location etc. It requires ATS to identify and address the training needs of all students.
All VET trainers have a legal responsibility to ensure that discrimination does not occur. Legislation which provides protection against discrimination includes:
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975
- Sex Discrimination Act 1984
- Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986
- Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- Racial Hatred Amendment 1995.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992
The Disability Discrimination Act aims to eliminate, as far as possible discrimination on the grounds of a disability in areas of education, access to public premises, and employment. The definition of a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act is broad and inclusive of physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, learning, neurological, physical disfigurements and the presence in the body of disease causing organisms.
All staff members have a responsibility to ensure that students do not experience any form of discrimination.
Under the DDA, training providers are obliged to:
- Ensure learners with disabilities are not unlawfully discriminated against when seeking to enrol in a course of study,
- Negotiate and implement any adjustments necessary to enable learners with disabilities to participate in a course to the same extent as other learners, and
- Ensure assessment procedures and methods are adapted to enable learners with disabilities to demonstrate the knowledge, skills or competencies being assessed.
The Disability Standards for Education 2003
The Disability Standards for Education 2003 were formulated under the DDA to clarify and elaborate on the legal obligation in relation to education in relation to enrolment and participation in education, training and educational services.
Under the DDA it is expected that training organisations will sometimes need to make adjustments to ensure equal opportunity for students with disabilities. The nature of reasonable adjustments is such that they are designed to minimise the disadvantage experienced by learners with a disability, rather than provide learners with a competitive advantage. This can include administrative, physical or procedural modifications.
Under the DDA, training providers have the opportunity to claim that reasonable adjustments to accommodate needs of a person with a disability would impose unjustifiable hardship.
The DDA does not require training organisations to admit a student when the services and supports needed by that student would cause unjustifiable hardship to the organisation. Whether or not the adjustments that a learner with a disability requires pose unjustifiable hardship for a Registered Training Organisation will depend on the circumstances of the case. It will be decided on a case by case basis keeping in mind the intent of the DDA. No single factor alone is likely to constitute unjustifiable hardship. All relevant factors must be weighed up to see if, in all the circumstances, there is unjustifiable hardship.
Some disabilities are not visible or obvious and may be referred to as hidden disabilities. These may include mental illnesses and psychiatric disabilities. It is the right of a person with a disability to decide who and when to tell about their disability. Diagnosis and treatment should be left to the appropriate personnel but is good to investigate and understand the facts about psychiatric disability and not to make prejudgments or assumptions. All people pass through a selection process to gain entry to a course. Selection criteria should only relate to the core components of the course. The DDA is not intended to provide students with a disability with an advantage for entering training. It is to eliminate disadvantage and discrimination. Generally, ability to be employed in the area of the course of study should not be a requirement of selection.
Role of the RTO
It is important to remember the following points:
- Do not make assumptions
- Treat every person on an individual basis
- Do not assume that all people from an equity group require identical support as many people are skilled at adapting their environment to accommodate their needs (often the solutions to their needs are simple and inexpensive)
- Consult individuals about their needs before requesting or implementing adjustments
- Only ask for the information that you really need. For example: what adjustments the person requires or how the disability might impact on their study.
Any learner who feels that they have been discriminated against can lodge a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). Complaints can be taken to the Federal court if settlement is not achieved. HREOC can provide advice about the procedure for doing this. Any person in a Registered Training Organisation and any body or establishment responsible for the control of the training organisation could have a complaint brought against them under the DDA (e.g. front counter staff, individual lecturers, Program Managers, Managing Director, members of College Governing Councils).
Settlement may include:
- An apology,
- An agreement to enrol a learner with a disability,
- An assurance that learners with disabilities will not be treated
- In a certain unfavourable way in the future,
Should a complaint proceed to the Federal Court, the training provider would need to show why reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of the person with a disability impose an unjustifiable hardship.
What is an equitable RTO?
An equitable RTO will…
Create a positive image by:
- Promoting successful outcomes to staff to avoid stereotyping and challenge limits,
- Challenging media images and misconceptions with case studies of achievement,
- Ensuring organisational policies proactively eliminate discrimination,
- Ensuring all courses are marketed to community organisations and advocacy groups within the area
- Making course information available in a variety of formats e.g. Internet (using accessible websites), print and audio copies, and large print.
Create a learning environment that recognises students’ needs by methods such as:
- Evaluating suitability of learning materials and assessment processes for all clients. For example, use of audio tapes to support written text; use of captioned videos; availability of recognising text for perusal of course materials
- Ensuring support and counselling is available and easy to find
- Offering a wide range of course options
- Assisting students to identify and arrange additional services such as interpreters and trained note-takers
- Consult with the relevant stakeholder organisation
- Evaluating customer service procedures and training of support staff to ensure their responsiveness
- Ensuring qualified tutorial support is available and factored into the course costing for all learners