Disability discrimination

Discrimination happens when a person, or group of people, is treated less favourably than others because of their background or personal characteristics.

Experiencing discrimination makes participating in everyday life more difficult. It can affect education and employment opportunities and limit social interactions. A person 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.

In the last year, an estimated:

  • 1 in 4 (23%) people aged 15 and over with disability experienced some form of discrimination (including disability discrimination), compared with 1 in 6 (17%) without disability (ABS 2015).
  • 1 in 11 (9%) people aged 15 and over with disability experienced disability discrimination (ABS 2016).

Disability discrimination complaints are consistently the largest category of complaints reported to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (Figure 1).

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Where can I find out more?

Detailed data tables are available at Data.

More information on:

  • complaints to the AHRC, and the Disability Discrimination Act—AHRC; a copy of the Act can be found at https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2018C00125
  • ABS General Social Survey (GSS)—ABS GSS, includes information on a broader experience of discrimination (that is, not only disability discrimination) for people with and without disability (based on the ABS’ short disability module).


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2015. General social survey, summary results, Australia, 2014. ABS cat. no. 4159.0. Canberra: ABS. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/4159.0

ABS 2016. Disability, ageing and carers, Australia: summary of findings, 2015. ABS cat. no. 4430.0. Canberra: ABS. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/4430.0

AHRC (Australian Human Rights Commission) 2018. Australian Human Rights Commission 2017–18 complaint statistics. Sydney: AHRC. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/commission-general/publications/annual-report-2017-2018

Alternative text for Disability discrimination

Figure 1

Pie chart showing the proportion of discrimination complaints made to the Australian Human Rights Commission under five discrimination acts. The reader can select to display the chart by year from 2013-14 to 2017-18. The chart shows complaints were more likely (42%) to be made under the Disability Discrimination Act in 2017-18 than the Sex Discrimination Act (27%) or any other discrimination act. Back to figure 1