The NDIS has been a hugely important step in the right direction for those living with a disability in Australia. But establishing true equality and a society free of bias is a journey, and we still have a way to go.
Many people will probably be surprised to learn that Australia is a laggard when it comes to disability employment. The gap between employment rates of people with and without disability sits at 32% in this country. In Italy, it’s 13.3%. Sweden, 9.5%.
It makes sense, therefore, when we also learn that the majority of complaints heard by the AHRC (Australian Human Rights Commission) fall under the category of the Disability Discrimination Act – 37%. The next biggest category is the Sex Discrimination Act at 21%.
Why is this the case?
Why Is It Hard For People With A Disability
To Find Employment
For the most part, ignorance. Many employers simply assume it is too difficult and expensive to hire somebody with a disability.This ignorance seems to stem from the fact that many employers simply don’t have any experience working with those who have a disability.
Research conducted by The Conversation found that many disability services have no people with disabilities in their workforce. Fewer still have any on their board or in a management position. This is surprising given that it’s logical to think that disability services should value the lived experience of people with a disability.
We’re confident that if more employers had experience working with people with disabilities, they would find them to be incredibly valuable assets in the workplace. The simple fact that many have faced more adversity and had to demonstrate more perseverance than the average person is indication enough. Other benefits to the workplace include improved productivity and staff morale.
Factors such as these far outweigh the potential costs of slight modifications to the workplace.
What Can You Do About It?
Know Your Rights & Your Advocates
Of course, discrimination against people with a disability isn’t limited to workplaces and employment. It extends to housing, restaurants, clubs, schools and so much more. Governments need to do more; the current federal government has put in some soft legislation which amounts to not much more than encouraging businesses to employ more people with disabilities.
In terms of the individual, you need to know your rights and the services out there that you can prevail upon.
Disability Discrimination Act
This Act protects those with a disability from discrimination in the following areas:
- Getting or using services
- Accessing public places
More specific examples include getting a job, receiving training for a job, dismissals, enrolling in a course, getting a home loan, renting or buying, using parks or restaurants, among others.
What Do I Do If I Feel I’ve Been Discriminated Against
Due To My Disability?
If no satisfactory result comes from talking to those directly involved, you can make a complaint to the AHRC in writing that details what happened, when and where, and who was involved.
Of course, you can have an advocate do this for you, such as us, or a solicitor or even the relevant trade union.
The Commission isn’t a court and cannot determine if discrimination actually took place; their role is to talk to all sides and attempt to resolve the conflict.
- Your NDIS Provider
We’d like to think of ourselves as the first place our participants would come if they felt they were being discriminated. We can act as your advocate, help you navigate government agencies, or simply provide advice.
- Job Access
This is a government department wholly devoted to disability in the workplace. They can provide advice and assistance to people with a disability looking for employment, and also advise workplaces looking to hire people with a disability.
This page on the Australian Human Rights Commission website has a lot of information about The Discrimination Act. It outlines your rights, actions you can take, and provides examples and scenarios for further clarity.
Your First Call
As we’ve already mentioned, we consider ourselves your first port of call should you feel you’ve been discriminated against.
We’re here to provide full support to our participants; not only practical support, but emotional and moral too. Discrimination, even indirect, can be a traumatic and hurtful experience.
Don’t go through it alone. Reach out to us and we’ll provide whatever support you need or want