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Westpac launch of DDA Action Plan

Disability Disability Rights

Westpac
launch of DDA Action Plan

Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM,
Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner
24 July 2001
Sev Ozdowski

Thank
you, Dr Morgan, for the invitation to attend this launch of the Westpac
Disability Discrimination Act Action Plan. I am most pleased to formally
receive a copy for the Commission to register.

Dr
Morgan, Westpac colleagues, members of the Accessible E commerce Forum,
ladies and gentlemen, this is an important day for Westpac and its customers
and employees. The completion of your Action Plan makes a very clear and
public statement about your commitment to breaking down the barriers that
have existed for people with disabilities in the banking and finance world.

Those
barriers have both excluded people with disabilities from being able to
take advantage of the benefits and convenience banks have to offer, and
severely limited the opportunities for expanding your customer base. Successful
implementation of your plan has every chance of addressing both these
problems.

Over
the past five years the Commission has received several hundred Action
Plans from all levels of government, educational institutions, small local
businesses and large national and international organisations and I am
pleased to say the numbers are growing steadily.

An
Action Plan provides organisations with an opportunity to identify the
barriers that exist in their services and systematically remove them in
a timely way. In doing so an organisation both reduces the likelihood
of successful complaints of discrimination, and contributes to the achievement
of a fundamental objective of the DDA - that of full and equal participation
of people with disabilities in all aspects of our social, political and
economic life.

One
of the things we have found at the Commission in our many dealings with
organisations developing Action Plans is that their chances of successful
implementation rely heavily on the most senior levels of management taking
ownership of the plan and understanding the full value of achieving change.

Dr
Morgan's personal involvement in this launch indicates the chances of
its success are high.

Time
after time we hear people say that the actual development of the plan
is in itself an important part of the education processes necessary to
change organisational attitudes and focus on new ways of doing things.

Reviewing
the accessibility of your services; consulting with service users and
those that cannot access your services; searching for solutions and negotiating
timeframes for removing barriers often result in a change in culture in
an organisation even before a plan is implemented.

I
could not illustrate this change more clearly than Dr Morgan did in his
opening comments when he said: 

"We set out to address the gaps in our programs,
but now I think we are moving towards energetic, self-motivated innovation"

Having
looked at the Westpac Action Plan I am confident its implementation will
greatly contribute to the removal of barriers to traditional services,
and lead to significant innovation in the e commerce environment in which
we now live.

Apart
from all the activities designed to eliminate barriers to existing services
Westpac is committing itself to a number of strategies that are particularly
worthy of note.

1.  First is the commitment to
increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities at Westpac.
Apart from the Paralympic Employment Program Westpac has put in place
a series of strategies designed to ensure the skills and experience of
people with disabilities are fully recognised in recruitment processes.

2. Secondly, there is a commitment
to establishing mechanisms to ensure representative organisations of people
with disabilities and older Australians are consulted with on the development
of new services and products.

3. Thirdly, there is a recognition
that people with disabilities and older Australians may need information,
training and guidance on how to actually use the emerging technologies
available. The seminars described by Dr Morgan are a vital piece of the
jigsaw necessary to make accessible banking a reality and I welcome the
commitment made by Westpac to expanding this program.

This
launch of the Westpac Action Plan is taking place on the same day as the
Accessible E commerce Forum meets and I must acknowledge the very important
work members of that Forum are undertaking.

The
Forum's main job is to sponsor co-operative partnerships to address the
recommendations made in the Commission's accessible e commerce inquiry
of last year.

The
most important initiative arising from the Forum has been that of the
Australian Bankers Association which, in co-operation with the broader
financial services and information industries, community groups and government
agencies is developing a number of industry standards in the areas of
ATM's, EFTPOS, Telephone banking and Internet banking.

Westpac
is also supporting this very exciting work through the ABA and I am sure
it will assist you in achieving your goals. 

Thank
you again for the invitation to receive this Action Plan and, in acknowledgement
of your commitment to ensure equitable access to your products and services
for people with disabilities, I would like to present you with this certificate
of recognition.