Working Towards a Level Playing Field
When people with cognitive disabilities walk into a meeting they often find the other people in the room are the holders of information they do not have. It is therefore important that the organisation takes the time to plan and prepare a level playing field for all members well before the first meeting.
Check out examples of accessible invitations and agendas here.
Before the first meeting:
Well before the first meeting it is a good idea to choose a key contact person whose role it will be to meet with the new representative to provide information, answer questions, and undertake orientation activities as follows:
- Get together for a coffee and get to know each other.
- Identify support and access needs including:
- support workers, mentors;
- preferred method of information and meetings papers provision e.g. easy English, audio, face to face support to go through information, font size, hard copies, online etc.;
- preferred meeting times e.g. some people prefer morning meetings;
- building accessibility;
- financial assistance e.g. reimbursement of costs, sitting fees;
- transport to and from the venue.
- Review the information in the orientation kit together and discuss any issues or concerns.
- Provide information about other committee members.
- Provide information about meeting procedures if needed e.g. agendas, minutes decision making, confidentiality etc.
- Invite the new members to a couple of meetings to observe; encourage them to bring a friend, advocate, or support person.
Before Each Meeting:
Give consumer representatives time and support to prepare for the meeting including consulting with their groups. Before the meeting you should:
- Provide background information about the meeting including meetings times, contact information, etc.
- Send out meeting papers including the agenda, minutes, background papers etc. Remember to make materials available in preferred formats.
- Consider highlighting the main discussion points in colour.
- Make contact with the person to find out if they:
- have any questions about the papers or the meeting;
- wish to add an agenda item;
- require any information to be explained;
- have any the issues they wish discussed.
- Ensure all access supports are in place including transport, support worker, mentor etc.
At the Meeting:
- Make sure someone is ready to welcome the consumer representative when they arrive
- Start the meeting with introductions and encourage everyone to explain why they are involved.
- Allow time for the new representatives to say a little about themselves
After the Meeting:
- Say thank you.
- Ask the consumer representatives how they felt the meeting went, including;
- positive and negative feedback,
- problems which need addressing,
- whether they felt included and got to have their say,
- whether they were listened to and their opinions respected.
- Complete the feedback loop. Let the consumer representatives know how their input has had an impact, and when their ideas haven’t been progressed explain why not.
Meeting Tips from consumer advocates:
Chapter 5. Inclusive Meetings
Menu: Consumer Participation Kit