People with disabilities can face significant barriers in many parts of their lives, including getting into and staying in the workforce and accessing public buildings and facilities.

The Disability Discrimination Act makes it against the law to discriminate against people with disabilities in many areas of public life, including employment, using goods and services and accessing public places.

Employers are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help a person with a disability carry out the inherent requirements of the job.

Similarly, shops, clubs and other buildings that are accessible to the general public should also be accessible to people with disabilities.

In some circumstances, however, it may be unreasonable to provide complete accessibility to a public building, particularly for existing buildings. Adjustments to a workplace to accommodate a person with disability could also be very onerous.

The Act provides an exception if the cost or difficulties of providing access will place an unjustifiable hardship on a person or organisation.

Example: It may not be against the law to provide entry to a building only by a set of stairs if the owner of the building can show that it would cause unjustifiable hardship to modify the building because it is beyond the financial means of the owner to do so.

However, before coming to this conclusion, a person or organisation should:

  • thoroughly consider how access might be provided or adjustments made
  • discuss the issues directly with the person or groups involved
  • consult relevant sources of advice.

Unjustifiable hardship is based on an assessment of what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

If the proposed adjustments are likely to cause hardship, it is up to the person or organisation to show that they are unjustified.

The Federal Government can provide financial assistance for workplace adjustments for employees with disabilities. See http://jobaccess.gov.au/content/employment-assistance-fund