How many experience discrimination?

Experiencing discrimination can make participating in everyday life more difficult for people with disability, affecting their education and employment opportunities, and limiting their social interactions. A person who is unable to participate in everyday activities, or who avoids situations, because of disability 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.

In the last year, of people aged 15 and over with disability living in households, an estimated:

  • 1 in 4 (23%) have experienced some form of discrimination (including disability discrimination), compared with 1 in 6 (17%) without disability (2014)
  • 1 in 11 (9%) have experienced disability discrimination (or 281,000 people) (2015)
  • 1 in 3 (32%) have avoided situations because of their disability (or over 1 million people) (2015)
  • 1 in 3 (29%) of those who had difficulty accessing locations due to challenges with mobility or communication, had difficulty accessing buildings or facilities (or 371,000 people) (2015)
  • 1 in 6 (17%) have had difficulty using public transport (or 633,000 people) (2015).

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

  • 42% of AHRC complaints are about disability discrimination 
  • 27% are about sex discrimination
  • 14% are about racial discrimination
  • 8.4% are about age discrimination
  • 8.0% are about the Australian Human Rights Commission Act (2017–18).

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 experienced disability discrimination in the last year(a)

People with disability who did not experience disability discrimination in the last year(a)

Avoided situations in the last year



Self-reported poorer health (‘fair’ or ‘poor’)



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



Are unemployed(c)



Have a low level of income



(a) Living in households (2015).

(b) Aged 18 and over.

(c) Aged 15–64.