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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Use this self-assessment to see how your business is currently performing and to identify areas where you can improve accessibility.
You 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:
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 3415.
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.
For more information visit scopevic.org.au
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone (03) 9843 3000.
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.
Email: email@example.com phone (03) 9555 8552
Vicdeaf provides a range of services and advice to assist people who are deaf or hearing impaired, or those working with them.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone (03) 9473 1111 or TTY 03 9473 1199
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.
Email: email@example.com phone: 1800 18 (SANE) 7263
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.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone (03) 9654 1400
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.
Website: mav.asn.au/Pages/default.aspx phone (03) 9667 5555
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.
Email: email@example.com phone (03) 5221 2820
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.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone (02) 9284 9600 - TTY 1800 620 241
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.
Email: email@example.com phone (02) 9370 3100 TTY(02) 9318 2138
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.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone (03) 9654 4443
Contact your local council to see if they provide any support to help local businesses improve accessibility.