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Legislation: Disability Discrimination Act (1992)

The Disability Discrimination Act (1992) is the federal legislation that protects people from discrimination based on disability.

Disability discrimination happens when people with disability are treated less favourably than people without disability. Disability discrimination doesn't only happen to people with disability, it can also occur when people are treated less fairly because they are relatives, friends, carers, co-workers or associates of a person with disability.

Disability discrimination can be direct or indirect.

An example of direct discrimination would be a person being turned down for a job simply because they have a disability.

An example of indirect discrimination would be a wheelchair user not being able to visit a shop because it is down a flight of stairs, or a person with low vision not being able to purchase tickets to a concert because the website is not accessible.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992), the definition of the term 'disability' is very broad. This means that people you might not regard as having a disability, and people who may not even think of themselves as having a disability, are included.

In relation to the Disability Discrimination Act (1992), the term 'disability' refers to:

  • Physical disability
  • Intellectual disability
  • Psychiatric disability
  • Sensory disability
  • Neurological disability
  • Learning disability
  • Physical disfigurement
  • The presence in the body of disease-causing organisms.

The purpose of this broad definition is to ensure that the law applies to every person with disability.

While some people are born with a disability, many people acquire a disability during the course of their lifetime. Some people have disabilities that are obvious, yet many people have disabilities that are not visible.

The Disability Discrimination Act (1992) also protects people who may be discriminated against because they:

  • Are accompanied by an assistant, interpreter or reader
  • Are accompanied by a trained assistance animal, such as a guide or hearing dog
  • Use equipment or an aid, such as a wheelchair, hearing aid or assistive device.

The Disability Discrimination Act (1992) makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone with disability in the following areas:

  • Employment
  • Education
  • Access to premises used by the public
  • Provision of goods, services and facilities
  • Accommodation
  • Buying land
  • Activities of clubs and associations
  • Sport
  • The administration of Commonwealth Government laws and programs.

With regard to employment, the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) prohibits discrimination against people with disability throughout all stages of the employment process, including:

  • Recruitment processes such as advertising, interviewing, and other selection processes
  • decisions on who will get the job
  • terms and conditions of employment such as pay rates, work hours, job design and leave entitlements
  • promotion, transfer, training or other benefits associated with employment
  • termination of employment, demotion or retrenchment.

Harassment in the form of insults or humiliating jokes about a person's disability is also unlawful and considered a form of discrimination.

The DDA requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for any employee with a disclosed disability, unless that adjustment would cause 'unjustifiable hardship' to the employer.

The Disability Discrimination Act (1992) is administered by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). Individuals can lodge complaints of discrimination or harassment under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) and/or the Disability Convention with AHRC in writing, by phone or online.

Australian Human Rights Commission
Complaints Infoline: 1300 656 419

Disability Services Act 1986

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Article 27: Work and Employment