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What is disability discrimination?


Disability discrimination is when a person with a disability is treated less favourably than a person without the disability in the same or similar circumstances.


For example, it would be ‘direct disability discrimination’ if a nightclub or restaurant refused a person entry because they are blind and have a guide dog.

It is also disability discrimination when there is a rule or policy that is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on people with a particular disability.


This is called ‘indirect discrimination’.

 For example, it may be indirect disability discrimination if the only way to enter a public building is by a set of stairs because people with disabilities who use wheelchairs would be unable to enter the building.

Disability discrimination

What does the Disability Discrimination Act do?

Guide dog

If you have a disability, the Act protects you against discrimination in many areas of public life, including:

  • employment – getting a job, terms and conditions of a job, training, promotion, being dismissed
  • education – enrolling or studying in a course at a private or public school, college or university
  • accommodation – renting or buying a house or unit
  • getting or using services – such as banking and insurance services, services provided by government departments, transport or telecommunication services, professional services like those provided by lawyers, doctors or tradespeople, services provided by restaurants, shops or entertainment venues
  • accessing public places – such as parks, government offices, restaurants, hotels or shopping centres.


How can I be protected from disability discrimination?


The Disability Discrimination Act makes it against the law to treat you unfairly because of your disability.

You are also covered if you had a disability in the past, may develop a disability in the future or if people think you have a disability.

People who are relatives, friends and carers of people with a disability are also protected by the Disability Discrimination Act.

However, the Act also says that employers must consider how the person with a disability could be provided with reasonable adjustments to help them do the job. An adjustment is reasonable if it does not impose ‘unjustifiable hardship’ on the employer.

As mentioned earlier, unjustifiable hardship also applies to other situations. For example, it may not be against the law to only provide entrance to a cinema or theatre by a set of stairs if the owner can show that it would cause unjustifiable hardship to modify the building to provide wheelchair access.

When is disability discrimination not against the law?

Office worker in wheelchair Like other anti-discrimination laws, the Disability Discrimination Act says that in some circumstances treating someone differently because of their disability won’t be against the law. This is known as an exception or exemption.

For example, the Disability Discrimination Act says it may not be against the law to refuse to employ a person with a disability if, because of their disability, they cannot perform the inherent requirements of a job.


What can I do to prevent discrimination?


You, and other people from the community, can help ensure that people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians to participate in the political, economic and social life of our communities by letting us know what is happening.


The Commission looks at the ma.ny different areas of life that can be improved for people with a disability, such as public transport, employment, e-commerce, going to the cinema and using the Web.

The Commission collects the views of everyone involved through public inquiries, round tables and other processes.

We then make practical suggestions to government, business and other organisations about how things can be changed for the better