Education and Training:
Research Report on the Development of a Disability Equality and Awareness Training Framework for Transport Staff
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7.0 Existing Provision of Disability Equality and Awareness Training
7.1 Disability Equality and Awareness Training Frameworks
There appears to be a high level of agreement that disability equality and awareness training is key to the provision of equality of services to disabled people. On this basis it might be expected that, prior to extending the disability legislation (DDA, 2005) there would have been some evaluation of different types of awareness training and a move towards vocationally linked disability training courses. However, no documented evidence of either could be found within the transport sector.
References to disability equality and awareness training are surprisingly rare in the available academic literature, and there is little information relating to the structure, underlying rationale, or theoretical underpinnings of disability equality and awareness training materials, content or frequency of delivery. This was even more marked in relation to the transport sector where mention of awareness training appears to be vague and non-specific. There is little that focuses on the field of consumers in general, or on the need for readily accessible transport in particular. Furthermore, there is no reference to formal qualifications, or certification of training, in any of the corporate disability policies, or codes of conduct, found within the transport sector.
The need for disability equality and awareness training for those providing a service to the public was established as far back as 1977 (Placket, 1977), on the basis of the observation that the wide nature of disability tends to mean that many people have limited, or no, exposure to the needs of most disabled people in their private lives. Disability equality and awareness training initiatives go back to the 1980's and the 'sympathetic hearing scheme'. This was launched in 1981, and was aimed at providing training and information for the public on effective communication with hard of hearing and deaf people. The scheme offered a 'quality mark' to those companies whose staff received awareness training in communicating with those who were deaf or had hearing loss. It ended in 2002.
Formal training structures began to be developed in the mid 1980s in areas, such as social work, where disability was an obvious issue. Even so, there seems to be more depth than breadth to the study of the issue and, where the nature of the need for training has been explored in more detail, it tends to be in fairly bound and controlled situations, such as providing a library service: (Library and Information Services for Deaf and Hearing Impaired people at www.cilip.org.uk) rather than in the more variable situations encountered by front line transport staff.
What literature there is on disability equality and awareness training frameworks and techniques tends to focus on highly selected subtopics, and is predominately concerned with:
- Educational issues, in particular access to higher education and educational facilities and mainstream education issues.
- Medical issues, in particular access to certain types of services, for example in community health care (Costello, Boras and Davis, 2006) and in community support (e.g. McMillan, Bunning and Pring 2000), and in medicine (e.g. Sakertoo, Anderson, Rice, Rogan and Lazarus 2004.
- Employment of disabled people.
- Vehicle and premises design.
- Access and accessibility.
Most of this work is academic and is heavily weighted towards the needs of those with intellectual disabilities and communications issues. In general, studies are directed toward employment practices, or are focused on narrow domains where interactions between staff and disabled clients are core to the work of the service provider (e.g. community care of people with intellectual disabilities). In most cases the training provided, and the context of the interactions between disabled people and staff, is highly supervised and/or structured (e.g. Costello, Bouras and Davis, 2006). Most studies concentrate on training that builds on the existing professional skills of the staff involved.
In many cases, though not all, these staff have wide and day-to-day experience of working with disabled people, and it is a particular form of awareness that is under development.
A National Framework for Disability Equality and Etiquette Learning Competencies for Health and Social Care Services (DEEL 2007) provides a three level approach from 'novice', through to 'improver', then onto accomplishing 'champion' status in terms of disability awareness.
The framework is sufficiently broad to be used by health and social care managers and providers, educationalists and professional bodies, as well as individual staff at every level. DEEL offered a framework by which disabled people could assess the level of competence they receive.
A mix of techniques was used in most of these studies, including role plays and simulations, video presentations, workshops and theoretical presentations, and in most cases more than one training session was used, although the time between sessions varies.
Few studies use vocational standards, though in most cases there is a theoretical underpinning to the training strategy adopted. In general the studies are small scale, and although they demonstrate that awareness training can increase the participants' understanding of disability, and their own response to it in the specific ways desired, the nature of the improvement is very tightly bound rather than general. As such, the findings are not readily transferable to the commercial mainstream, or the transport sector, given that staff / traveller interactions are much less structured, and so less amenable to prediction and control. Also, front line staff awareness training is likely to be less extensive. In most of the studies identified, some effects on disability equality and awareness were achieved, but in most cases the greatest improvements observed were in the area of awareness of disability issues specific to the interactions involved, rather than in general awareness or other changes in attitude. There was also no information found on how stable are the changes achieved, across time, type of disability, and type of interaction.
Small amounts of work on more general awareness training for those working/interacting with people with intellectual disabilities were found, but while these studies showed an improvement in general awareness with training, as measured by the researcher's definitions of improvement, and the treatment/opportunities offered to those involved as a result, there was no follow up after the initial intervention. There is therefore no evidence of the stability of the shift in awareness or related attitudes (Bailey, Barr and Bunting 2001, Melville et al 2006; Peterson and V Quarstein 2002); nor of a proven extension of the studies, or the techniques that they use, to other groups of related issues or to staff within other disciplines, even within the same domain.
The transferability is further reduced by the unavoidable conclusion drawn from course materials described: little commercial awareness training will be of the type outlined in the academic studies which is often, though not exclusively, extensive. A very few studies have looked at shorter learning provision (e.g. half-day courses), and these suggest that such awareness training can have positive effects, particularly on levels of knowledge of disability. However, the presentations examined in these studies were generally highly tailored to the needs of participants whose level of prior knowledge is much greater than would be expected of front-line transport staff (Saketkoo, Anderson, Roice, J., Rogan and Lazerus, 2004).
7.2 Availability of Disability Equality and Awareness Training Provision
The literature search indicated that there is plenty of information on the availability of disability training provision, but that much of this comes directly from the commercial providers themselves. The review findings indicate that there is a wide and varied supply of disability equality and awareness training available commercially, but that little of it is targeted at customer service functions in general, or at transport providers in particular. No courses targeted specifically at transport providers were located on the Internet, although a few providers such as JMU Access (part of RNIB) emphasise a customer service approach.
Nevertheless, it seems that transport-focused disability awareness training materials have been available for some time. The Department of Transport produced training videos, targeted at bus and taxi drivers, as early as the mid 1990's, while the British Airports Authority also developed training videos in the 1990s, and made these available to other transport operators. However, details of availability and access to these training products were not given in the sources located, and no direct reference or link was found to these products in the literature search and review, and it may be that the training videos are no longer available.
Training materials and brochures for awareness training were relatively easy to find on the internet, with most aimed at attracting customers. In the majority of cases these contain outlines for marketing purposes only, with few additional details provided.
With some searching it was possible to locate limited on-line courses and free materials that would be of possible value in the transport sectors but this took time and patience, for example an excellent course for taxi drivers produced by the Democracy and Disability Society Group was located. It is available on their web site (www.ddsg.org.uk/taxi/), which also provides both core and domain specific training information, including materials that could be made into handouts or slides. However, it was more than ten pages into a 'Google' search and was not well labelled, and so many people would not necessarily be aware that the web address was in any way related to disability issues. A wide range of books and videos are also available.
In general, most disability equality and awareness courses targeted at front line staff are no more than half a day in duration. This is at the shorter end of the training continuum and significantly shorter than the courses discussed in the academic literature (see above include paragraph reference). No matrix of necessary contents was found for effective shorter courses. A few longer awareness courses can be found, but these do not seem to be targeted at organisations such as transport providers. They also appear to expect a higher degree of initial knowledge than might be expected from customer-facing transport staff.
While it might be assumed that courses provided by reputable agencies reflect larger vocational structures, there was little direct evidence that they are based upon them. Some courses identified in these searches are accredited against Continuing Professional Development or other professional schemes, but many are not.
7.3 Training Methods, Contents and Practices
Studies that review or evaluate the nature, content, techniques and impact of existing disability awareness training provision were rare, and none were identified in the transport sector. The DRC publishes a guide to what good disability awareness training is available via their web site, and First Great Western have published details of their staff training in disability issues, including course objectives, emphasis and contents. This states that they are committing to rolling out an NVQ level 2 qualification processes, one the few references found to vocational qualifications in the search of training materials available at www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=457.
Course listings were easily found on the Internet, though in varying degrees of detail, and this allows some indication of the types of courses that transport providers might be using. The similarity of content in most course details suggests that there is broad agreement amongst disability action groups and training providers on what front line staff disability equality and awareness training should cover (though formal validation of that training set could not be located).
Disability equality and awareness courses fall into two main groups: trainer-led courses, and remote courses (either internet or CD/DVD based). Most courses appear to use a similar mix of techniques and materials depending on the time available, including:
- Power Point Presentations.
- Experiential workshops.
- Scenario workshops.
- Scenario analysis.
Based on the information found, it would appear that a typical disability equality and awareness course would have a variant of the following course contents, with the exact programme depending on course duration and the training supplier:
- The DDA.
- Introduction to disability legislation affecting customer service.
- Models of disability - most likely to be the social model.
- What is Disability?
- Disability numbers and demographics.
- Attitudes towards disabled people.
- Access and accessibility.
- Communications and conversations with disabled people - disability etiquette and appropriate language.
- How customers gain access to a service.
- What you can do - potential barriers and possible solutions.
The emphasis of most awareness courses appears to be on increasing 'knowledge' of disability, and is not linked to service provision or the perception of those being served. However, as McMillian, Bunning and Tring (2000) point out, it cannot be assumed that an increase in knowledge will be translated into changes in care or service provision.
The academic literature suggests that reflection is an important part of changing attitude (Brownlee and Carrington, 2000; Melville et al, 2006); however, there is little information about how commercially available awareness training incorporates this need or the effects of not doing so. In the literature and other information on disability equality and awareness training, it is often implied that attitude change will be one of the outcomes of disability equality and awareness training. However, this fails to acknowledge the ingrained nature of attitudes, and their resistance to change. If disability equality and awareness training in the transport sector is to have a significant impact in terms of changing the attitudes of staff, then further examination of the nature of attitudes is required.
There is very little information on the need to address attitudes to disability through awareness training in relation to the transport sector. However, a wider review of research on attitudes to disability, and the impact made by interventions designed to influence attitude change, will have implications for the development of training frameworks for public transport staff. Gregory (1993) describes a training module that has been devised to increase awareness of participants' positive attitudes and behaviours towards people with disabilities. Aspects of the workshop include the "importance of language and labels, noting the power of language and preferred language when referring to people with disabilities ... guidelines for leading a discussion on myths about people with disabilities ... and basic etiquette in interacting with people with disabilities." As discussed in section 6.3.4 Levison and St. Onge (1999) have written a book which is "designed to reduce the discomfort and alienation of teachers and students regarding people with disabilities." This book covers issues such as "historical prejudice against people with disabilities, legislative changes that make inclusion possible ... common feelings about disability, changing attitudes through awareness, disability role models, and myths and misconceptions."
While many longer and trainer-led courses tend to involve role play, or other forms of simulation activity, in an attempt to provide opportunities to practice behaviours, the formal evaluation of such role playing is rare. However, French (1992) raises concerns about simulation training in disability equality and awareness training, stating that "Simulation exercises provide false and misleading information, and inculcate negative, rather than positive, attitudes towards disabled people." Instead, he advocates "the use of disability equality training, which is devised and run by disabled people themselves." (Hickson 2005).
As a distinction, www.choicesandrights.org.uk (accessed May 2008) explains that, typically, disability awareness training primarily tends to focus on the individual impairment or condition, and will offer some issues relating to etiquette and language, employing some form of simulation exercises.
However, disability equality training explores the concept of people being disabled by society's barriers and attitudes, and how an organisation may remove those barriers and how they might change attitudes. The training may feature an element of 'awareness', but it is unlikely to use simulation exercises.
In summary, there are many considerations when introducing a training programme designed to develop positive attitudes towards disabled people, and, to quote Goerdt (1995), "the reduction of handicaps requires a great effort on the part of all sectors to promote changes in beliefs and attitudes which limit the activities of people with disabilities." These considerations are summarised as follows:
- Based on the work of behavioural theorists (e.g. Triandis, 1971) communication practices should play a large part in any behavioural change programme.
- The work of Hickson (2005) indicates that any programme designed to change or modify people's attitudes to disabled people should involve equal status contact with a disabled person. In this sense it would be an advantage to include disabled people in the delivery of any disability awareness training programme.
- Most attitude-change programmes have information integration theory at their core, in that they aim to change or modify attitudes through the introduction of salient, challenging, and contemporary information.
- It is important to recognising that attitudes to disability (mainly negative ones) are deep rooted in history, religions, culture and society, and tend to be resistant to change.
- Applying the principles of cognitive dissonance may help to make sure that front line operators are aware of their positive attitudes to disabled people, and therefore will feel dissonance (a sense of tension and uneasiness) if their behaviour is inconsistent with their positive attitudes towards disabled people.
- Consideration needs to be given to how the positive attitudes of front line transport operators, which are developed on the training programme, are then generalised to the context of their work as front line operators.
Overall, however, the research findings reviewed do indicate that positive attitudes to disability can be developed through appropriate training and education.
7.4 Evaluation of Effectiveness and Measuring Attitude Change
The use of pre-test, and post-test, 'attitudes to disability' scales should be considered as part of the evaluation of the disability equality and awareness training programme. A number of such scales exist that can be used to measure an individual's attitude towards those with disabilities. The instruments used may either be designed specifically to measure the person's attitude towards a particular impairment (e.g. attitude to blindness scale), or there are instruments that are more general in their approach to disability and have been designed to measure attitudes across the board (e.g. the Scale of Attitudes Towards Disabled Persons - Antonak 1981). Many instruments are designed to measure individual personal attitudes, as well as prevailing societal attitudes to disability.
For example, the Interaction with Disabled Persons Scale (Gerthing 1994) measures attitudes at a personal level, and is based around the assumption that negative attitudes are reflections of a person's lack of association with disabled people. Studies (e.g. Gerthing 1993) have indicated that it is this lack of information (i.e. strangeness) that engenders feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in people when they meet disabled people. It is these feelings of cognitive dissonance that are measured by the Interaction with Disabled Persons Scale.
Factors that need to be considered when selecting 'attitudes to disability' scales are: dimensionality (e.g. multi-dimensional is where more than one attitude is measured); focus (societal or personal); social desirability bias and potential for faking; disability type (general or specific); reliability and validity criteria; concept clustering; forced response; and length of scale (Daruwalla and Darcy 2004).
Daruwalla and Darcy (2004) chose to use two 'attitudes to disability' scales in their study - the Interaction with Disabled Persons Scale (described above) and the Scale of Attitudes Towards Disabled Persons (Antonak 1981).Their major finding was that it was easier to change societal attitudes to disability than personal attitudes. In addition, they found that using contact with a disabled person was more effective than only providing information, once again backing Hickson.
7.5 Disability Training in Practice
Despite agreement about the importance of changing perceptions of disability, there appears to be little related work on, or information about, the role, and use, of training in general, and equality and awareness training specifically. Air travel is developing as an area of formal research interest in the US, both in its inland and international forms, but little of the work seems to be transferable because of legal, corporate and other differences. Some work is also appearing within the travel industry on foreign travel and hotel services but, again, this is often (though not exclusively) driven by US interests. There is evidence that the travel industry in the UK is beginning to provide information sources aimed at helping disabled people to buy travel services, but the spread of the information available is still quite limited. Rail is generally the best represented of the inland travel options, and general commitments are often made to relevant staff training. However, evidence of the nature and extent of training in practice is difficult to identify. Minutes of local authority meetings provide some indication that disability equality and awareness training for local public transport is the focus of some discussion, but that the privatised nature of much transport makes the provision of effective and sufficient training hard to enforce. There was no information found that suggested that local authorities are enforcing the implementation of disability equality and awareness training in a structured way.
Formal training structures proposed within existing vocational frameworks go well beyond what most transport providers would see as being equality and awareness training and, as such, are unlikely to be considered as appropriate for routine of customer facing staff. There is also little on the 'whys or wherefores' of training or course content, and no evaluations of the changes achieved as a result of the training provided. Where evaluations are mentioned in specialist interest or academic literature, they tend to be of very specific and highly tailored approaches to training that are unlikely to be of use in the type of mainstream commercial training most likely to be used by mainstream transport providers.
With the exception of rail services, there was no easily accessible information about who is providing equality and awareness training for their staff, or about the type of training being provided. Even within the rail sector, details of training provision were impossible to locate or validate without significant effort, usually involving direct telephone contact with the rail company.
However, First Great Western are now taking steps to publish such information in a more readily accessible form from their website (www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=457), and other train operators can therefore be expected to do the same in the foreseeable future. There was no discussion of the level of training required for good awareness, and exercises that match needs to training delivery techniques are very rare, with none identified in the transport domain.
It seems likely that large organisations with formal and/or regulated duties will gravitate towards those providers with a 'name' for such provisions, and will tend to source their training through providers like RNID, RNIB and the DRC (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission). However, there is no documentary proof of this that could be located. Transport providers such as taxi companies may well rely on smaller local training providers, or online training but, again, no information was found on patterns of usage of different types of training or training provider.