Information for landlords, business owners, managers and shop staff
Nearly 800,000 people move around the City of Melbourne (including the CBD) every day. The City itself has a resident population of 23,000 and around 18 per cent of Victorians have a disability. While not all people with disability may experience barriers to accessibility, potentially around 140,000 daily visitors and 4,000 city residents could benefit from a fully accessible environment. Other local council areas similarly have large populations of people with disabilities. A fully accessible environment is one where all consumers can easily access premises, goods and services.
Inaccessibility has a negative effect upon businesses and the economy when customers who could be accessing goods and services, may not do so if faced with accessibility barriers, be they physical, communicational or attitudinal.
Quality service is one of the most important things you can offer your customers. Providing access to your shop or building, and services, is the cornerstone of ‘good business’. If your business is not accessible, people may avoid using it and tell others about their experiences.
Not providing access to your premises and services may be unlawful under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).
The Commission's consultations
In 2013, the Commission met with local businesses in the Melbourne Central Business District (CBD) to hear about their experiences providing services to customers with disabilities. We found varying levels of understanding among businesses and staff about accessibility, customers’ communication needs and about how customer service for people with disabilities, older people, parents or carers could be improved. We also found that the physical accessibility of each premises varied.
Some businesses had already made adjustments to support people with disabilities. This included providing a fully accessible entry, tactile markings, installing portable ramps and accessible fitting rooms.
Other businesses were not accessible. In these situations our discussions focused on what prevents businesses making changes. Businesses also discussed how they attempted to overcome barriers in other ways, such as through customer service and communication.
Our consultations revealed a number of barriers to providing an accessible environment including: cost, lack of legal and practical information and difficulties around control and ownership. Some staff and managers believed that accessibility should be addressed by their landlord or building owner.
In response, the Commission developed a self-assessment tool (see What do I need to do? section) which can be used by businesses to help them identify areas in their business where accessibility can be improved. The Commission also developed fact sheets on accessibility for business owners and service staff.
What does the law say?
Discrimination is against the law
The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 says you cannot refuse to provide your services or access to premises to somebody with an attribute protected by the Act because of that attribute or provide it in a way that disadvantages them. These attributes include age, sex, race, and disability.
If a person is discriminated against in service delivery or while accessing your premises they may make a complaint to the Commission.
You need to make reasonable adjustments for people with disability
In addition to the general protection against discrimination the law also says that service providers must make reasonable adjustments so that a person with disability can access services. This is a stand-alone provision in the Equal Opportunity Act, meaning a person doesn’t have to prove they have been discriminated against – they only need to show that reasonable adjustments were not made for them.
More than one person can be liable for discrimination
For example, if a staff member discriminates against a person with a disability the manager or business owner may also be liable if they can’t show that they took reasonable precautions to prevent discrimination from occurring.
You have a positive duty to prevent discrimination from occurring
The Equal Opportunity Act also requires that businesses take reasonable and proportionate steps to improve their policies, practices and procedures to prevent discrimination against customers. This is called the positive duty.
You must allow Assistance Dogs to enter your premises
It is against the law to deny a person with disability access to your premises or services because they have an assistance dog. An assistance dog is a dog that is trained to assist a person with disability to alleviate the effects of their disability.
It is also against the law to treat a person with disability unfavourably because they have an assistance dog. For example, by making a person sit outside with their assistance dog at a restaurant.
You also have obligations under federal law
It is also against the law to discriminate against someone with a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) and people with a disability who experience discrimination can also make a complaint of discrimination to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
You also have legal obligations under the Disability (Access to Premises-Buildings) Standards 2010 (known as the Premises Standards).
Find out more at www.humanrights.gov.au
What do I need to do?
Do a quick self-assessment
Use this self-assessment to see how your business is currently performing and to identify areas where you can improve accessibility.
Read our fact sheetsYou can find detailed information on your legal obligations and the positive duty to prevent discrimination in the fact sheets below.
The fact sheets provide you with information on how you can meet your obligations and improve accessibility. This includes communicating effectively with people with different kinds of disability and how you can make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of your customers who have a disability:
- Accessibility fact sheet for business owners
(PDF, 555) | (DOC, 95KB)
- Accessibility fact sheet for staff
(PDF, 315KB) | (DOC, 58KB)
- Guide to communicating with customers with disabilities
(PDF, 380KB) | (DOC, 75KB)
- Know your Rights: Business accessibility fact sheet for customers with disabilities
(PDF, 380KB) | (DOC, 75KB)
- Accessible toilets and changing places
(PDF, 310KB) | (DOC, 30KB)
Where can I get more advice and information?
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
You can contact the Commission’s Enquiry Line on 1300 292 153 for more information about your legal obligations under the Act regarding accessibility.
Our education, training and consultancy services can help you understand your obligations regarding disability discrimination and accessibility.
For more information and to register online visit humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/training or call (03) 9032 3467.
Scope – for people with a disability
Scope Victoria offers a range of services to support people with disabilities to be part of their communities, and to support businesses and services to be more inclusive.
Scope provides an accessible written information service to create easy-to-read documents such as brochures, menus and other important information.
Scope offers a communication access accreditation process and will award the Communication Access Symbol (below) to businesses and services that meet the minimum standards for communication access. These standards contribute to great customer service and successful communication for everyone.
Communication Rights Australia
Communication Rights Australia is an advocacy and information service for people with little or no speech and provides a range of resources and services to assist people with disability.
Vicdeaf provides a range of services and advice to assist people who are deaf or hearing impaired, or those working with them.
SANE is a national charity helping people affected by mental illness. It provides information and a helpline, education, support and training and produces a wide range of guides and useful publications on mental illness for consumers, carers, health professionals, students and the general community.
Blind Citizens Australia
Blind Citizens Australia is the united voice of Australians who are blind or vision impaired and provides a range of services and advice to assist people who are blind or vision impaired, or those working with them.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY
Municipal Association of Victoria
The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) builds the capacity of local councils and provides specialist information and advice including advice on accessible buildings for people with disability.
Association of Consultants in Access Australia Inc
Association of Consultants in Access Australia Inc (ACA) is a peak national membership based professional association for people working to achieve access to the built environment for people with a disability. It provides information on how to make buildings and businesses more accessible.
Australian Human Rights Commission
The Australian Human Rights Commission is a statutory organisation that promotes and protects human rights by providing education and awareness about rights, receives and deals with complaints of discrimination, ensures human rights compliance and develops policy and legislation. It provides information and advice to businesses on how they can make their goods, services and premises more accessible to a range of customers.
People with Disability Australia
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) provide rights related information, training, education, research and advice and referral information to people with disability, their carers or advocates.
Council on the Ageing (Victoria)
Council on the Ageing (COTA) provides information and advice to older people through advocacy, engaging older people and through awareness raising of the needs of older people.
Your local council
Contact your local council to see if they provide any support to help local businesses improve accessibility.
- City of Wodonga
- Surf Coast Shire
- Hobsons Bay City Council
For more information about this project please contact us at [email protected].