Experiencing discrimination can make participating in everyday life more difficult for people with disability, affecting education and employment opportunities, and limiting social interactions. A person who is unable to participate in everyday activities, or who avoids situations, may be at higher risk of adverse outcomes, including social isolation, unemployment and poor health.

What is disability discrimination?

Disability discrimination occurs when a person with disability is treated unequally, less favourably, or not given the same opportunities as other people because of their disability. It may be direct or indirect.

What is meant by situations?

In this section situations refer to work and study, service, hospitality and retail venues, social situations, public transport, and public places.

In the last 12 months, among people aged 15 and over with disability living in households, an estimated:

  • 1 in 4 (23%) experienced some form of discrimination (including disability discrimination), compared with 1 in 6 (17%) without disability (2014)
  • 1 in 10 (9.6%) experienced disability discrimination (or 314,000 people) (2018)
  • 1 in 3 (33%) avoided situations because of their disability (or about 1.1 million people) (2018)
  • 1 in 3 (32%) of those who had challenges with mobility or communication had difficulty accessing buildings or facilities (or 429,000 people) (2018)
  • 1 in 6 (17%) had difficulty using public transport (or 650,000 people), 14% (or 518,000 people) are unable to use public transport at all and 0.9% (or 35,600 people) do not leave home (2018).

Each year, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) receives more complaints about disability discrimination than about any other form of discrimination:

  • 44% of AHRC complaints are about disability discrimination 
  • 26% are about sex discrimination
  • 16% are about racial discrimination
  • 6.7% are about age discrimination
  • 7.7% relate to the Australian Human Rights Commission Act (2018–19).

People who experience disability discrimination are more likely than those who have not to avoid situations, to have poorer general and mental health, to be unemployed, and to have a lower level of income.

Table DISCRIMINATION.1: Selected characteristics of people who have and have not experienced discrimination because of their disability in the last 12 months

Selected characteristics

People with disability who have experienced disability discrimination in the last year(a)

People with disability who have not experienced disability discrimination in the last year(a)

Avoided situations in the last year(b)



Self-reported fair or poor health(b)



Self-reported a high or very high level of psychological distress(c)



Are unemployed(d)



Have a low level of income(d)



(a)   Living in households (2018).

(b)   Aged 15 and over.

(c)   Aged 18 and over.

(d)   Aged 15–64 with $700 or less of personal weekly income.

For more information, including breakdowns by sex and age, and lists of data sources, see the full web report.