Training Outline

6.1 Standard Lecture: Consulting with Social Partners and Civil Society (2 hours)

  • Begin this section by emphasizing to participants that law and policy makers should consult widely when seeking to draft or revise laws designed to promote the employment of persons with disabilities, as well as when developing policies to implement these laws. Use Transparency 99 to emphasize that widespread consultation will enable law and policy makers to profit from the expertise that exists in the community, and help to ensure the effectiveness of any law and policy which is eventually adopted.
  • Consulting Organizations of People with Disabilities.
    Be careful to explain to participants that there are, in fact, various ways to collect information from and involve individuals with disabilities in the legislation drafting process. Referencing section 6.1.1 of the Primer, use Transparency 100 to highlight that information can first be gathered and involvement sought by consulting with organizations that represent individuals with disabilities, and second directly from individuals with disabilities themselves or through elected Members of Parliament who represent the concerns of people with disabilities.

    Other Approaches to Consulting with Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs)

    In recent years, several countries have gone beyond merely consulting with DPOs regarding drafting legislation, etc., to directly involve them in the business of representing the concerns of people with disabilities by being part of the government. The first country to make a deliberate effort to ensure a political voice for people with disabilities was South Africa. In 1999, it had 10 Members of Parliament who were people with disabilities (the highest number of any country in the world). This was not a coincidence or an accident. Instead, it is part of a deliberate effort on the part of the African National Congress (ANC), the majority party, to overturn the past practices of apartheid in which no minorities had representation. Now representation is assured because of reserved disability positions in the Parliament. The ANC approached the DPOs and asked them to draw up a list of well-qualified disabled candidates in different geographic areas whose names were then placed on the party’s national list. After verifying their credentials, the ANC then placed their names on the ballot. After election, those elected to these positions are expected to represent the needs and concerns of people with disabilities, in all areas that could affect them. Today, the minority parties have followed similar practices.

    The process in Uganda differed from that of South Africa. Since 1996, Uganda has embraced an all encompassing movement system of government whereby there are no political parties but instead, all groups elect their own representatives. Therefore, disabled people had to organize to elect their own leaders to the five seats in Parliament reserved for them. It was also totally up to disabled Ugandans to decide how to divide up their representation. They began by dividing the country into four regions and then decided exactly how they wanted the representation to be accomplished, for example, they determined that they wanted one seat for women with disabilities that could therefore be contested for only by women with disabilities. The other four seats were to be contested for by both men and women to ensure balanced representation. Electoral colleges were then organized, to which each district sends representatives. When the time comes to elect Members of Parliament (MPs), each district is asked to send four people – one with a visual impairment, one with a hearing disability, one with a physical disability and the last with any other type of disability. They all go to the Electoral College, draft their manifesto and whoever wishes to serve as an MP goes on to campaign. Only disabled people can vote for their candidates and whoever they elect becomes an MP without any need for government endorsement. Disabled Ugandans have a great deal of influence because not only do they vote for their own MPs, they also vote for the other MPs from their community too, who they can go to if needed.

    Explain that in the first instance, it is important to consult with organizations of and for people with disabilities. Using Transparency 101, describe specific considerations that should be made, including the following:

    • Organizations should be representative of the disability community, rather than of non-disabled persons seeking to represent the interests of disabled persons.
    • Organizations should be encouraged to take on board the concerns of women and other disadvantaged and under-represented groups of disabled persons.
    • When person with disabilities cannot represent themselves, representation can occur through family members or advocates, although, even in these cases, every attempt should be made to listen to the disabled individuals, who may be able to express some opinions.

    Make sure that participants understand that the disability community is very heterogeneous. A number of different organizations may exist, representing the interests of people with different disabilities. Where this is the case, all representative organizations should be consulted. Consultation could also be facilitated by a national disability council or a network of national disability organizations.

    Explain to participants that as a potential strategy, it might be useful to produce a position paper (sometimes referred to as a White Paper) which discusses the particular challenges, issues and needs to be tackled and addressed and options for change, as a basis on which the consultation can begin. Larger disability organizations could be specifically invited to comment on and discuss this position paper and smaller organizations (of which the authorities may not be aware), could be given the possibility of responding if they wish. For this arrangement to work, the position paper should be widely distributed and adequate publicity arranged concerning the consultation. Requests for public comment enrich the debate at this preliminary stage.

    OPTIONAL EXERCISE (1.5 hours): Begin this exercise by explaining to participants that they are going to be responsible for outlining a position paper (White Paper) supporting the development of disability and employment non-discrimination legislation in their country. Break the larger group into smaller groups of 5 individuals. Ask each group to draft a paper using an outline format. Explain that the purpose of the paper is to frame a proposal for the non-discrimination legislation concerning the employment of persons with disabilities. The challenge for them is to consider what needs to be incorporated into a comprehensive paper/proposal. Allow each group 45 minutes to frame its paper and another 45 minutes to debrief the exercise allowing each group approximately 5-10 minutes to share its paper outline with the class.

    Emphasize that support from the majority of the disability community is essential to the success of any eventual policy. If this support does not exist, people with disabilities may boycott the policy, for example, by not registering as a disabled person; not applying for financial or material support; or not seeking to enforce individual rights through the courts. Without this support, the law or policy is likely to fail.

    Using Transparencies 102-104, highlight some additional considerations policy makers may need to make to involve individuals with disabilities in the consultative process as they consider these strategies.

    • People with disabilities and their organizations may not easily be able to respond to and comment on draft legislation and policy initiatives, either because they are not accustomed to being consulted on legal and policy issues, or because they are not physically able to process and understand written information.
    • Special efforts may have to be made in order to promote the involvement of organizations of people with disabilities.
    • Any written or oral information on the consultation should contain a sufficient amount of background information which clearly sets out the perceived problem and the tools which are proposed for addressing that problem.
    • The fact that the opinions of people with disabilities are valued and welcomed should also be stressed, especially given that organizations of people with disabilities may not be accustomed to being asked for their opinions.
    • If written information is provided, alternative formats may be needed such as Braille; audio tapes; text written in a large print; and, easy-to-read texts and short summaries in order to reach people with certain types of disabilities.
    • Where it is not financially feasible to provide such alternative formats or where they are not relevant (if not required by the group engaged in reviewing the paper), the report should remind readers of the need to involve people who are blind or have intellectual disabilities in the information and consultation process.
    • State representatives could be sent to different parts of the country to discuss the legal and policy issues with people with disabilities and their organizations. Such meetings could reinforce and clarify any written information previously provided – reaching many people who would be unable to receive or read written consultation documents.

      • Alternatively, public authorities could train people with disabilities to participate in and chair such meetings, and to report the opinions they heard. This may result in a more open and informal discussion with the disability community.
      • Sign language interpretation may be needed at such meetings to facilitate the participation of deaf people. Local communities may be able to provide such interpretation if provided with enough notice and sufficient support.
    • If it is not possible to hold meetings, radio chat programmes may be used to stimulate debate on the legal and policy issues, and to obtain feedback.

    Conclude this subsection by referencing the example provided on page 64 of the Primer that highlights the independent committee approach that Ireland took to advise the government on disability policy issues. Independent committees have proven to be an effective practice in ensuring that the voice of persons with disabilities has a place of prominence in public policy-making discussions. It also provides a neutral and potentially unbiased vehicle for gathering, analyzing and synthesizing information from certain target audiences that may be critical to the policy making process.

    In Ireland, an independent committee was established to advise the government on disability policy. All members of the committee had a disability, or were the parents of a person with a disability who was unable to represent himself or herself. The committee traveled throughout Ireland holding public hearings to discuss the future of disability policy in Ireland. The committee concluded its work by presenting a lengthy report, based on its own opinions and those of the public who had contributed to the meetings, on how disability policy in Ireland should be organized.

  • Consulting Employers and Employers’ Organizations.
    Explain to participants that many of the obligations resulting from a law or policy to promote the employment of people with disabilities fall on employers. Given the ultimate impact on employers, it is important to understand the opinion of employers prior to adopting or amending the law or policy and, wherever possible, to work in collaboration with employers.

    In light of this, ask participants why they think it is important to engage employer representatives in the development of laws and policies - why might an employer representative want to have input into the drafting process? Make sure to document participant responses on flip chart paper.

    Referencing section 6.1.2 of the Primer, use Transparency 105 to highlight some basic information pertaining to involving employer organizations. Explain that many countries have a central employer organization that represents a large number of employers. Consultation with employers’ organizations need not, however, be confined to a single body. Consultation should occur with bodies which represent specific kinds of employers, such as rural and industrial employers, employers in different sectors, and large and small employers. This is because different industries or sectors may be able to offer different employment opportunities to people with disabilities. As with consultation of organizations of people with disabilities, a public position paper, which invites comments, may be one means of securing a widespread and informed response.

    Review the barriers to possible employer involvement outlined in Transparency 106.

    Explain that law and policy makers should be aware that employers frequently resist binding obligations regarding the employment of people with disabilities as well as those in other areas. Instead, they tend to prefer the use of a voluntary code of good practice. Emphasize, as articulated in the Guidelines, that European and North American countries, frequently after trying a voluntary approach, have generally rejected such an approach to promoting the employment of people with disabilities and instead have imposed binding obligations on employers.

    Conclude by stating that it is important to emphasize that it is good business practice to employ persons with disabilities, both from a financial as well as a social perspective. This business case should then be infused into a far-reaching public information campaign providing, clear information on how different policy options have worked in other places and the reasons for the success of some of these policies.

  • Consulting Workers and Trade Unions.
    Begin the discussion on trade unions by explaining that, as with the employers’ organizations, consultations should occur both with the central trade union organization and with sectoral trade unions.

    Referring to section 6.1.3 of the Primer, review the basic considerations for engaging and involving labour unions in the legislative drafting process using Transparency 107. Explain that law and policy makers should take into account whether trade unions are generally supportive of the employment of workers with disabilities. Some trade unions may perceive their membership to be made up of non-disabled workers and may therefore feel “threatened” by greater efforts to promote the employment of workers with disabilities. On the other hand, trade unions may already be actively involved in promoting the employment of people with disabilities, and be able to provide a valuable insight into effective policies and problems faced. Some trade unions, especially those representing workers doing labour-intensive or hazardous work where disabilities are more likely to occur, have first-hand experience and knowledge in dealing with rehabilitation and return of disabled workers to their jobs. Furthermore, because many trade unions represent workers who engage in the same industry, they are the most knowledgeable about the working conditions that may lead to disability or injuries, and therefore they are in the best position to advise workers and employers on ways to prevent them.

    The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Example

    The IAMAW sponsors and financially supports an organization called IAM CARES (The International Association of Machinists Center for Administering Rehabilitation and Employment Services). IAMCARES runs programmes in the US and Canada for airline industry workers who are displaced from their jobs for a variety of reasons. Among their services are more than 25 different programmes that specifically cater to those workers who become disabled to help them return to their jobs or to other jobs in the industry. The union is affiliated with a non-profit agency called IAM CARES SOCIETY that is run as a charitable organization offering free employment assistance and support services to people with all types of disabilities and/or chronic conditions, and many of its staff are registered rehabilitation professionals. In 1989, the US experience and expertise with their non-profit, helped spawn a Canadian IAM CARES SOCIETY but in Canada, the IAMAW is partnered with the Steelworkers union and is funded through Service Canada. IAM CARES SOCIETY has two offices, one in British Columbia and the other in Montreal Quebec, that offer a full range of services leading to full inclusion in the workplace. IAM CARES SOCIETY is the only union-sponsored employment placement programme in Canada.

    Another factor is that trade unions often feel that their primary role is to help workers who become disabled attain the social insurance benefits to which they are entitled. Thus, they may be more vested in advocating for benefits than in helping the worker stay in the job or find new work. In any case, policy makers should consider approaches to encouraging unions to become active in promoting return to work.

    Conclude by reviewing the following example, from page 65 of the Primer highlighting the process used by the European Union.

    “Whenever the European Union is considering proposing new European labour law, it is obliged to consult the social partners - representatives of employers and workers - on the desirability of adopting law in the proposed area. If the European Union decides to go ahead and propose legislation in that area, it must then consult the social partners on the content of that legislation.

  • Consulting Service Providers.
    Start by asking participants to generate a list of the types of service providers that typically work with individuals with disabilities. Document participant responses on flip chart paper. Responses should cover the full spectrum including independent and community living providers, employment services and vocational training providers, social and recreational providers, etc. Emphasize that consultation should include all these providers.

    OPTIONAL EXERCISE (1 hour): Begin this exercise by breaking participants down into small groups of 4-5 individuals. Assign each group a type of provider identified in the opening exercise/question or an employer/business representative. Explain to participants that the country is currently drafting disability employment non-discrimination legislation and that a decision was made NOT TO INCLUDE the group they represent in the consultation process. Provide each group 30 minutes to make an argument for why they should be consulted during the drafting process and tell them to be prepared to make their argument to the entire class. Allow 30 minutes for the individual arguments and debriefing.
    OPTIONAL EXERCISE (1 hour): Begin this exercise by breaking participants into small groups of 4-5 individuals. Using the list of providers identified in the opening exercise/question, ask each group to generate a list of actual entities within their country that should be consulted in the event of developing disability employment non-discrimination legislation. Provide each group 45 minutes to compile their lists emphasizing that the list they generate will be an important resource in the event that they are actually involved in drafting disability legislation. Where information gaps exist for participants, tell them to brainstorm about possible people or organizations that might be able assist them in identifying potential resource people/ organizations in that area. Use the last 15 minutes to discuss the exercise, asking participants to share where information gaps existed and help to connect participants to one another to assist in filling these gaps.

    Referring to section 6.1.4 of the Primer, use Transparency 108 to explain that during consultation, law and policy makers should consider how the experience and expertise of such bodies could best be used to promote the open employment of people with disabilities. Account needs to be taken of the fact that some specialized service providers will see demand for their services decrease if more people with disabilities are able to enter the open employment market and will be obliged to adapt and change. Some specialized services may already be actively supporting the employment of people with disabilities in the open labour market, for example, through job placement schemes or support while in employment. These organizations will be able to provide valuable advice on what works and what does not work, as well as serving as models to other agencies.

  • Consulting Other Interested Parties
    Explain to participants that there may be other key stakeholders other than those referenced already who may need to be consulted in the drafting process.

    Solicit participants to suggest other possible parties who may need to be consulted and document participant responses on flip chart paper. These might include parents and families of individuals with disabilities and the organizations that represent them; religious institutions, charitable organizations, specialty organizations like those that focus on alcoholism and substance abuse; and other government agencies like small business administration and economic development entities, to name a few.

    Emphasize that, as referenced earlier, a public position paper could be used to facilitate consultation with other interested parties who may have direct experience in supporting people with disabilities (in employment). Referring to section 6.1.5 of the Primer, use Transparency 109 to conclude by outlining some tips for soliciting consultation during the legislation drafting process.

    • Make sure, when adopting or revising a disability law or policy, to consult with a wide array of persons and organizations, especially people with disabilities and organizations representing them, trade unions and employers, all of whom will have valuable experience regarding problems faced and possible policy instruments and approaches.
    • Independent expert consultants might also be able to play a role, as can bodies already involved in administering quota schemes or monitoring non-discrimination legislation. In this way, problems faced can be recognized and adequately addressed.
    • Involving and consulting organizations of people with disabilities requires considering alternative means or communication to ensure that the experience and knowledge of these persons can be fully tapped when drafting or revising legislation or policy measures.
    • Public authorities should endeavour to use the experience and insight of the social partners to help them develop appropriate legal and policy measures. For example, in carrying out an objective assessment of the need for a quota and the form which that quota should take; or in developing anti-discrimination measures.