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Disability discrimination

This covers all types of disability, including illness, injury, physical restrictions, mental illness, intellectual disability, having an infection (such as HIV or Hepatitis C), being at risk of developing a disability in future (such as carrying a particular gene) or having had a disability in the past. Discrimination can include treating the person unfavourably because of their disability, or because of assumptions made about people with that type of disability. Examples of disability discrimination include refusing to consider a job application from a person in a wheelchair or refusing to let a house to a person who has a guide dog.

Discrimination on the basis of disability also includes:

  • failure to provide special assistance or equipment where needed, if it would be reasonable to expect it to be provided;
  • failure to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a disability, for example, adjusting a job so that an applicant with a disability would be able to do it – what is a reasonable adjustment will depend on all the circumstances, including costs and benefits;
  • failure to make public premises (such as shops and public offices) accessible to persons with a disability – however, it is not discrimination if making the premises accessible would cause undue hardship, for example, because it would be unreasonably expensive to make the changes needed;
  • refusal of service – for example, refusal of a taxi ride or admission to a restaurant because a person has a guide dog with them. Separating a person from their guide dog, or refusing to allow them into a shop with their dog is also a criminal offence

In accommodation, landlords are generally required to allow tenants to make reasonable alterations to the premises as needed to accommodate the disability, but at the tenant’s expense and on condition that the premises be restored to their former state at the end of the tenancy.

Legislation

Areas of discrimination on basis of disability under SA law

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of any disability.

Discrimination is prohibited in the following areas:

  • education
  • employment
  • accommodation
  • access to premises
  • sale of land
  • conferral of qualifications
  • provision of goods and services
  • superannuation
  • membership of clubs and associations

Exemptions

  • employment not connected with an employer's business
  • employment: where a person suffering from an impairment would not be able to adequately perform the work required for employment without endangering themselves or others or to respond adequately to emergency situations reasonably anticipated in connection with the work required
  • salary rates
  • conferral of qualifications, where a person suffering from an impairment would not be able to perform the inherent requirements of the occupation adequately or safely
  • educational institutions established wholly or mainly for the benefit of students with a particular impairment
  • provision of goods and services where the standard of provision required would be onerous or unreasonable
  • accommodation in one's own household
  • insurance: discrimination in the terms of an annuity, life assurance, accident insurance or any other form of insurance where it is based on reliable actuarial or statistical data
  • superannuation, where based on reliable actuarial or statistical data
  • superannuation schemes provided for employees to which the employer makes a contribution and where the greater number of employees reside outside of SA
  • charities for the benefit of persons with a particular disability
  • special measures for the benefit of persons with a particular disability
  • sporting activities
  • where access to a place or facilities cannot be provided due to the unjustifiable hardship it would impose
  • measures taken to limit the spread of an infectious disease

Areas of discrimination on basis of disability under Commonwealth law

Discrimination is prohibited in the following areas:

  • education
  • employment
  • accommodation
  • access to premises
  • interest in land
  • conferral of qualifications
  • provision of goods and services
  • superannuation
  • membership of clubs and associations
  • registered organisations
  • administration of Commonwealth laws and programs
  • sport

Exemptions

Employment - it is not unlawful if:

  • a person is unable to carry out the inherent requirements of the job, or
  • in order to carry out the inherent requirements of the job the employer would have provide such facilities or services as would impose unjustifiable hardship to the employer, or
  • the employment is for domestic duties in a private residence
  • Qualifying bodies, where the person cannot meet the major inherent requirements of profession or trade

Education - it is not unlawful if:

  • it would impose unjustifiable hardship on the educational facility, or
  • the education is for people with a particular disability

Accommodation - it is not unlawful where:

  • the accommodation is for a particular disability and is supplied by a voluntary body
  • provision of the accommodation would cause unjustifiable hardship
  • the accommodation is only for a maximum of four people and includes the owner or a near relative in residence

The following, whilst not strictly speaking exemptions, are defences against an action of disability discrimination and also need to be considered:

Access to premises - it is a defence if altering the premises would result in unjustifiable hardship

  • Goods and service - it is a defence if the supplier would suffer unjustifiable hardship to supply the goods in the way they need to be supplied
  • Incorporated clubs and associations - it is a defence if the association is for people with a particular disability or if there is unjustifiable hardship in providing the benefit in a particular way which is needed as a result of a disability
  • Sport - it is a defence if the sport is organised for people with a particular disability or the person cannot perform the necessary actions required for the sport or a selection is based on relevant skills

It is up to the person who claims a defence of unjustifiable hardship to prove this. All relevant factors, such as the costs and benefits, can be taken into account.

Making a complaint

Complaints can be made to the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Equal Opportunity Commission. There is no cost to lodge a complaint in either the Equal Opportunity Commission of South Australia or the Australian Human Rights Commission. For forms and guides on making a complaint see the websites of the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

For complaints relating to discrimination in employment, claims can may made to the Fair Work Commission, see the Employment chapter of the handbook on protected workplace rights: General Protections.

Time limits:

The Australian Human Rights Commissioner may decide not to take any action for complaints on acts committed more than 12 months previously.

The Equal Opportunity Commission requires a complaint to be made within 12 months of the event being complained of, but can grant extensions of time.

General Protections claims relating to dismissal have a 21 day time limit (from the date of notice of dismissal) in the Fair Work Commission.

Disability discrimination  :  Last Revised: Tue Nov 18th 2014
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