Human rights

Disability discrimination

Discrimination is treating, or proposing to treat, someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law. This includes bullying someone because of a protected characteristic.

In Victoria it is against the law to discriminate against you because of a disability you have, or that people think you might have.

Disability includes:

  • total or partial loss of body function or a body part 
  • the presence of organisms (such as HIV or Hepatitis C) that may cause disease or disability, malformation or disfigurement of the body 
  • mental or psychological diseases or disorders 
  • conditions or disorders that may result in a person learning more slowly.

The law protects people who have had a disability in the past and those who, because of an existing medical condition, may have a disability in the future.

In Victoria, if you have a disability it is also against the law to discriminate against you because you have:

  • an assistance aid, such as equipment including a palliative or therapeutic device
  • someone who is assisting you, for example, an interpreter or a reader
  • an assistance dog.

Around one in five Victorians has a disability and most people will experience some kind of disability at some time in their lives. Disability discrimination can prevent people from participating in community life and enjoying other human rights.

If you have disability, you are also protected by Federal disability discrimination law.

Examples of disability discrimination

Antonio’s teacher will not let him go on an overnight school camp because he has epilepsy and needs medication at night.

A store requires Linh, who is vision impaired, to produce a driver’s licence as identification before it will accept her cheque to pay for goods. Linh is not eligible to have a licence because of her vision impairment. The store will not accept other forms of official identification that Linh offers.

Dinesh breaks his arm while skiing and has trouble returning to his job as a gardener. He needs to take time off for medical appointments and he can only carry out light tasks at work. Dinesh’s boss tells him that he’ll have to take unpaid leave until his arm is mended and he can return to work fully.

Where can discrimination occur?

Discrimination is against the law when it occurs in an area of public life such as clubs, schools and shops, or in the workplace.

Find out more about general places of discrimination or learn more specifically about disability discrimination in employment and disability access to accommodation.

Reasonable adjustments

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 employers, educational authorities and goods and services providers are required to make changes so that a person with disability can do their job, participate in education or access good and services. These changes are known as reasonable adjustments.

For example, a school makes a voice recognition software package for computers available to assist students with learning or physical disabilities.

Disability and the Charter of Human Rights

Many support services and government departments are public authorities. Under the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities they must consider human rights when developing policies and delivering services for people with disability, their families and carers.

Are there any exceptions to the law?

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some exceptions, which mean that discrimination will not be against the law in particular circumstances.

Positive steps can also be taken to help disadvantaged groups using special measures, which is not discrimination under the law.

If an exception or special measure does not apply, in some circumstances an exemption from the Act may be sought from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Discrimination against you because of a disability may not be against the law where:

  • there is a real risk to your health, safety or property (or to other people’s) and the discriminatory measures are needed to protect you.
  • the discriminatory measures were taken to assist people with special needs or disabilities, such as providing accessible services and facilities.
  • an employer would have to make unreasonable adjustments to their workplace or work situation so that you could apply for, or perform, a job.
  • you could not adequately perform a job even if an employer made reasonable adjustments to the workplace or work situation.

Similar exceptions in regard to making reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person with disability also apply to education providers and goods and services providers.

Make a complaint to the Commission

If you think you have been discriminated againstsexually harassedvictimised or vilified, contact us and talk about your concerns. Our dispute resolution service is free and confidential. We can send you information about the complaint process and if we can’t help you we will try to refer you to someone who can.

To make a complaint:

Find out more about making a complaint.