Making the ‘people’s building’ accessible

23 October 2023

Parliament is working to create an accessible and friendly place for people with disability.

Access to our democratic institutions is a basic right of all Victorians. But too often, for people with a disability, exercising that right is hindered by inaccessible communication.

‘We estimate that there's about 1.2 million Australians who experience difficulty with communication access,’ said Lisa Evans of Scope Australia. 

‘Many of those can have a disability, it may be an intellectual disability, it may be something like cerebral palsy, it may be an acquired brain injury that has changed their cognitive status,’ she added.

Scope's Lisa Ho says educating others about communication, access and rights will help make the world a better place.

The Parliament of Victoria has partnered with Scope Australia to try and break down some of the barriers to people with communication difficulties.  

‘Parliament is open to the public for events, for tours and, of course, for watching the proceedings of parliament and our committees,' said Paul Groenewegen, Assistant Clerk Procedure and Serjeant-at-Arms at the Parliament of Victoria. 

‘We want to make sure every Victorian can participate in what is happening here at parliament,’ he said.

Scope's Lisa Evans congratualting parliament employees on earning the accreditation.

Scope Australia worked with the parliament to develop a suite of tools, including visual aids to help people with disability access the parliament. In particular the public facing employees, such as the Tours and Customer Service Unit, took part in focus group meetings with Scope to determine the needs and develop the appropriate tools to enable successful communication.

The project culminated in the awarding of Communication Access Accreditation to the Tours & Customer Service Unit, Legislative Council Attendants, Legislative Assembly Procedure Office, Legislative Council Chamber Support Office, and Department of Parliamentary Services Catering Unit at a ceremony at Parliament House.

Paul Groenewegen presenting the accreditation award to parliamentary staff.

Lisa Ho, from Scope's Communication Access team, told the awards ceremony that accreditation was an important step in an ongoing process. 

‘In gaining the communication access accreditation, the Parliament of Victoria is on its way to fulfilling its aspiration,’ she said.  

‘Learning to do something different often seems hard in the beginning, but it will get easier with practice. Educating others about communication access and rights to communication will help make the world a better place where all people are treated in the same way.’ 

Paul Groenewegen, who Co-Chairs the Disability Action and Inclusion Working Group, said the accreditation is a significant step in the parliament becoming accessible to all Victorians.  

‘We often refer to parliament as ‘the people's building’ and we can't really be called ‘the people's building’ if we are not accessible to everyone, particularly people with disability,’ he said.