In the ACT it is against the law for someone to discriminate against you because of a characteristic that you have, or that someone thinks you have, in an area of public life such as employment, education, accommodation, provision of goods and services, and clubs.
It is against the law for someone to discriminate against you because of your disability which can include sensory disability, physical disability, intellectual disability, a temporary disability, a workplace injury, mental illness, brain injury, a neurological condition, a condition that results in a person learning differently, the presence in a person’s body of organisms that could cause illness or disease, and reliance on a support person, disability aid or assistance animal.
It is also against the law for someone to discriminate against you because they assume you have or have had a disability, or may have a disability in the future. This might include assuming you may or might acquire a particular illness or a future injury because you may have had an illness or injury in the past.
People who are associates of a person with a disability are also protected from discrimination – so if you are discriminated against because you are a carer or friend, parent or work colleague or an advocate of a person with a disability you are also protected under the Discrimination Act. The Discrimination Act also protects people with a disability from vilification on the basis of their disability – more information about vilification is below.
Examples of disability discrimination
A man in a wheelchair went with his family to a restaurant. When staff noticed that the man was in a wheelchair, he was denied access to the restaurant on the basis that there was not enough room to accommodate his wheelchair. The restaurant failed to consider making any reasonable adjustment for the man.
A person with a mental illness required some flexibility in his work hours, such as a later start time, when his disability was affecting his ability to get to work on time. His employer initially said it could not offer flexible work arrangements because it would not be fair to other staff.
A young man with an Aspergers Syndrome required assistance at school in the form of an assistance animal to alleviate the effects of his disability. The school initially refused to allow the dog to accompany him because of concerns about safety and hygiene.
Generally, employers, service providers and others must make reasonable adjustments for people with a disability to enable them to have the same opportunities as others.
Are there any exceptions?
A reasonable adjustment shouldn’t cause unjustifiable hardship, such as unaffordable costs.
It is also against the law to vilify a person or group of people on the grounds of disability. Vilification means to publicly incite hatred towards a person or group of people which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate that person or group of people.
Examples of disability vilification
A group of young people with autism moved into community based housing requiring ongoing support to live in the community. Neighbours called out offensive names and put letters containing offensive suggestions saying the house should move to another suburb in the letterbox.
A taxi driver refused to accept a fare from a man with a wheelchair making offensive comments to him and his companions when refusing to pick the man up from a city venue.