Where to find support when disability discrimination occurs

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As a person with disability, there may be instances of discrimination you encounter throughout your lifetime.

Key Points:

  • Discrimination can occur in any setting and may involve a stranger, NDIS provider or seem evident through inaccessible spaces
  • People with disability are legally protected under the Disability Discrimination Act and Australian Human Rights Commission
  • You can report disability discrimination through a number of channels, including government departments, independent advocates or the National Disability Insurance Agency

Perhaps a taxi company refuses to pick you up as you are a wheelchair user or you experience harassment due to your disability. When discrimination occurs, you should know where to find support so appropriate measures are taken.

There are a number of support and advocacy options available for people with disability, meaning you never have to keep quiet about discrimination. You can speak up and make sure your feelings are heard and create a positive outcome.

What is disability discrimination?

Disability discrimination can take place in any setting and come in many forms. Examples include being refused entry to a venue due to the use of a wheelchair, not being able to access a ride share vehicle with a guide dog or having employment opportunities denied due to a disability.

People with disability are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which makes it unlawful for any discrimination to occur against people with temporary or permanent disability.

As a result, it is also covered by the Australian Human Rights Commission, where disability discrimination is described as ‘[…]when a person is treated less favourably or not given the same opportunities as others in a similar situation because of their disability.’

All people with disability are protected by the DDA, including those with physical, intellectual, sensory, neurological, learning and psychosocial disabilities; diseases or illnesses, medical conditions or physical disfigurement.

Work-related injuries are also covered by the DDA, as are people who have had past and potential future disabilities, or are assumed to have a disability.

Additionally, the DDA protects people with disability who have an assistance or guide dog, use assistive equipment or mobility aids or are supported by an interpreter or assistant.

If you believe you have experienced a form of discrimination in relation to your disability, this is where you can look to find help.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

As a NDIS participant, you can go directly to the NDIS if a provider whether a person or organisation has acted in a discriminatory way.

It is first recommended that you speak to the provider about any concerns as they can address the matter directly. They will have their own complaint and resolution system and should address your complaint in the quickest fashion.

However, if there is no satisfactory resolution, the NDIS can help via the NDIA. The NDIA is the organisation that coordinates the NDIS and handles any complaints made in regard to the scheme and its NDIS providers.

Making a complaint is relatively simple as you can fill out an online complaint form on the NDIS website.

Complaint forms can be sent off in the following ways:

For more information on the NDIS complaints process, read our article ‘The complaints process for the NDIS.’
Independent support options for discrimination reporting and complaints are also available if you find that the NDIS does not provide an adequate outcome, including the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and disability advocates.

NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission

The NDIS Commission is an independent agency protecting NDIS participants by making sure NDIS providers are delivering safe and high-quality services.

It is the NDIS market regulator and is available for any participant who feels discriminated against and has not successfully resolved a complaint with a registered NDIS provider or worker.

Complaints can be raised with the NDIS Commission by a participant, family member, friend or advocate. They will then talk you through your rights and potential outcomes and can connect you with an advocacy organisation if beneficial.
You can learn more about the NDIS Commission through our article, ‘What does the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission Do?’

Independent disability advocates

A wide range of independent disability advocates are available to assist with discrimination complaints or concerns.

These advocates may also help to implement changes, such as creating more accessible spaces or implementing policy changes at the government level.

Advocates are also available to assist with all complaints, not just those related to NDIS providers.

When a discriminatory action has occurred due to your disability, an advocate can utilise their resources and knowledge to campaign on your behalf. This means they are speaking, writing or acting on your behalf, but your voice remains integral to the complaint.

If you have never made a complaint before you may find it reassuring to have the expertise of a disability advocate on your side. It could be a legal expert, an established organisation, or even a family member advocating on your behalf.

There are several places to find disability advocacy when discrimination occurs:

People with Disability Australia is the peak disability rights and advocacy organisation, advancing and protecting the rights of people with disability.

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations represents a number of member organisations and can link you to relevant disability advocates, as can national representative bodies like Disability Advocacy Network Australia, First Peoples Disability Network Australia and Women With Disabilities Australia.

The Australian Government also funds the National Disability Advocacy Program and you can use the Department of Social Services’ Disability Advocacy Finder tool to locate local government-funded agencies.

Police, government and the Human Rights Commission

As people with disability are protected from discrimination by the DDA, you can also file an official complaint with the police.

You can either do this online through your local state or territory police website or by visiting your local police station.

The Australian Human Rights Commission also accepts written complaints regarding your experiences with discrimination. You can make a complaint online, phone them on 1300 656 419 or print out a complaint form and post it to:

Australian Human Rights Commission
GPO Box 5218
Sydney, NSW 2001

Some states and territories have their own government departments to better protect people with disability from discrimination, abuse and neglect. These include:

You can also access resources through the government’s Disability Gateway, a national portal for all people with disability, their families and carers.

Have you benefited from the support of a disability advocate in the past? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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Related content:

What does the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission Do
The complaints process for the NDIS
The basics of disability advocacy