Consultation is an essential and valuable part of the development of policy, programs and services. Consultations should provide an opportunity for members of the university community to express their views about policies and services in a safe, confidential and accessible manner.
Effective consultation that incorporates and seeks the views of a diverse university community is not always easy. In many cases it will require additional initiatives and effort to ensure that people from minority or disempowered groups are heard. Many people with disabilities have specific needs that are not always obvious to those in the position of making policy, developing programs and undertaking planning.
Good consultation will also ensure that:
- better services are developed for all members of the community - meeting the needs of people with disabilities often benefits others
- expectations of people with disabilities are better met, therefore reducing the causes for complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act.
There are a number of ways to consult with people with disabilities. Time, resources and scope of the issue will dictate the best consultation method. There are benefits and disadvantages in each type of consultation method outlined below but each should involve people with disabilities in each step of the consultation.
- Form a representative committee, such as an Equity Committee or a Disability Services Committee which includes people with disability.
- Conduct phone, written, web-based or person to person surveys with students.
- Hold focus groups and public meetings around particular issues.
- Consult with student representative bodies such as unions and guilds.
- Consult with community-based disability peak bodies such as Blind Citizens Australia or Beyond Blue.
- Develop and/or review a university Disability Action Plan.
- Engage a consultant or researcher.
Make sure policies and procedures are accessible to students in print format and via the Web.