Sources of discrimination

People with disability may experience discrimination from various sources. In Australia, this discrimination most often occurs in relation to the provision of goods and services, employment and education. Experiencing discrimination in one area of life can result in people avoiding that particular situation as well as avoiding other situations.

Of the estimated 281,000 people aged 15 and over with disability who have experienced disability discrimination in the last year:

  • 1 in 4 (24%) said it was by an employer
  • 1 in 5 (21%) said it was by a person who provided goods or services (for example, health staff, bus drivers, rail staff, taxi drivers, restaurant or hospitality staff, or sales assistants)
  • 1 in 6 (16%) said it was by work colleagues (Table 1).

Of the more than 2,000 disability discrimination complaints the AHRC received in 2017–18:

  • 1 in 3 (36%) related to goods, services and facilities
  • 1 in 3 (30%) to employment
  • 1 in 8 (12%) to education (AHRC 2018).

Table 1: Source of disability discrimination in the last 12 months(a), by disability status, 2015 (%)

Source of discrimination

Severe or profound disability

Other
disability
status

All
with
disability

Employer

13.6

29.0

24.2

Work colleagues

13.2

17.1

15.6

Family or friends

25.0

22.3

23.6

Teacher or lecturer

*6.3

5.0

5.7

Providers of goods or services(b)

32.6

15.3

21.0

Strangers in the street

32.6

15.3

21.0

Other

32.1

23.0

25.9

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

(a) People aged 15 and over with disability living in households.

(b) Includes categories of 'health staff (GP, nurse, hospital staff)', 'bus drivers/rail staff/taxi drivers', 'restaurant/hospitality staff', and 'sales assistants'.

Source: ABS 2016; see also Table S3.

Other sources of discrimination

People with disability may also experience discrimination in terms of environmental or structural elements that limit their access to, and ability to participate in, the community. This is often indirect discrimination.

The physical environment, for example, can present a barrier to how some people with disability participate in community life. Public spaces, in particular, might have obstacles that make moving around the community and participating in everyday activities difficult. This includes accessing buildings or facilities. Around 1 in 3 (29% or 371,000) people aged 15 and over with disability found it difficult to access buildings or facilities in the last year.

Difficulties accessing buildings or facilities are often related to the design of a structure or its surrounds. For example, of those who found it difficult to access a building or facility in the last year:

  • around 2 in 3 (64%) faced difficulty getting around the building, including with stairs, internal doors, corridor widths or obstructed walkways
  • around 1 in 2 (49%) faced difficulty with approach areas, including ramps, handrails and lighting.

Some people with disability also find it difficult to use public transport. About 1 in 6 (17% or 633,000) people aged 15 and over with disability have difficulty using some or all forms of public transport. This includes:

  • using steps
  • getting to stops or stations
  • finding a seat or standing
  • facing fear or anxiety.

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2016. Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2015. ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of TableBuilder.

AHRC (Australian Human Rights Commission) 2018. Australian Human Rights Commission 2017–18 complaint statistics. Sydney: AHRC. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/AHRC_Complaints_AR_Stats_Tables_2017-18.pdf.