Disability Discrimination Act Review Released
22 July 2004 at 1:07 pm
Productivity Commission’s final report on the Review of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) has been released outlining its effectiveness and areas that need change.
The Commission says that since 1992 the DDA has been reasonably effective in addressing disability discrimination. But its effectiveness has been patchy and there is still a long way to go.
As well the Commission says the nature of the challenge facing the Act is changing as the focus shifts from addressing physical barriers to attitudinal barriers.
Latest available data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that 3.6 million people had a disability in 1998, almost one-fifth of the total population. The proportion of people reporting a disability is increasing over time. This rise is partly due to better diagnosis and a greater willingness to report disability. But it also reflects the ageing of the population.
The report says that this trend is expected to continue.
The Commission says it is especially concerned about discrimination in employment, because having a job is a key to people participating more fully in the community.
In 2002-03 over half of all DDA complaints were in the area of employment.
The second largest area of complaints was the provision of goods, services and facilities (nearly one quarter of all complaints).
The DDA appears to have been:ƒn
– relatively ineffective in reducing discrimination in employment. However,
employer peak bodies are working with their members to develop policies in this area
– of only limited effectiveness in improving access to premises due to
inconsistencies with the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The recently
released draft disability standards on access to premises, if implemented, would help to create consistency by linking the DDA to the BCA, but would introduce problems of their own
However the Act has been somewhat more effective in making public transport more accessible. The public transport disability standards were introduced in 2002 and many providers are already well ahead of agreed targets.
However, it says most improvements have been in cities, with many regional areas still suffering significant problems
The DDA appears to have achieved uneven results for different groups of people with disabilities. It appears to have been:
– more effective for people with mobility, sight or hearing impairments than for people with mental illness, intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, multiple chemical sensitivity or chronic fatigue syndrome
– less effective for people with dual or multiple disabilities and people living in institutions.
The DDA also appears to have been less effective for people living in rural and remote regions, those from non-English speaking backgrounds and many Indigenous Australians with disabilities.
However, these results might reflect disadvantages other than disability, associated with race, language barriers, socioeconomic background and remoteness.
The Productivity Commission concludes that although the inquiry results offer a somewhat mixed report card, eleven years is not a long time in which to achieve the fundamental changes sought by the DDA.
The Commission considers that the objectives of the DDA cannot be achieved without federal legislation. There are no satisfactory alternatives to a DDA, and there are good social and economic reasons for its retention.
The Commission has made a number of recommendations for improving the operation of the DDA, including the introduction of an ‘explicit duty’ to make reasonable adjustments.
Other recommended changes clarify the way the Act works, refine the application of exemptions, make the complaints process more accessible, ensure that HREOC and State and Territory anti-discrimination bodies work cooperatively, and provide additional impetus to organisations to develop their own approaches to addressing disability discrimination.
The Commission considers that these suggested improvements would promote the objectives of the Act, and enhance its net benefits to the Australian community.
The Federal Government’ has welcomed the report saying it realises complex issues that need thorough consideration. It says it is timely to review the Act to ensure it is working effectively for people with disabilities, without imposing undue burdens on business of industry.
If you would like an electronic copy of the finding send us an e-mail with DDA report in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note this is a very large file (2MB – 571 pages) in PDF format and you may require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5 or higher.