Disability discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably, or not given the same opportunities as others in a similar situation, because of their disability. It can also occur when an unreasonable rule or policy is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on people with a particular disability.
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.
The Disability Discrimination Act covers people who have temporary and permanent disabilities; physical, intellectual, sensory, neurological, learning and psychosocial disabilities; diseases or illnesses; physical disfigurement; medical conditions and work-related injuries.
It is against the law to discriminate against a person on the basis of disability in many areas of public life, including: employment, education, getting or using services, renting or buying a house or unit and accessing public places. There are limited exceptions and exemptions.
Employers have a legal obligation to remove barriers that people with disabilities may face at work. Making these changes is known as ‘reasonable adjustments’. A failure to make reasonable adjustments may be discrimination.
The Federal Government can provide financial assistance for workplace adjustments for employees with disabilities. See http://jobaccess.gov.au/content/employment-assistance-fund
It is not unlawful to discriminate against an employee on the basis of disability if the person cannot perform the inherent requirements of a job after reasonable adjustments have been made.
Employers can also be liable for the acts of their employees. This is called ‘vicarious liability’.
The Act allows for positive discrimination in some limited circumstances.