Disability discrimination is, unfortunately, consistently the largest category of complaints reported to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
This may be unsurprising to read, especially when you consider that 42% of people with disabilities within working age (15 – 64 years) have experienced workplace discrimination either from their work colleagues, or the employer themselves.
At Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA), our EmployAbility service often hears stories from our community about how needlessly difficult it is to even gain work.
One SCIA staff member, Susan, who has lived experience of disability recalls her journey looking for work as having a consistently hard time, “I remember when I was in my 20’s and revealing my disability when I got to the interview stage of a job, just to check to see if they had wheelchair access. Suddenly they would call me back to ‘reschedule’ and never return my phone calls. So I decided that I was going to stop telling people I have a disability altogether and dealing with whatever would happen.
“When I arrived at one particular job interview, the person interviewing me looked so scared and sat as far away from the me as possible. He didn’t know what to say.
You’ll be unsurprised to know I didn’t get that job, or even a phone call back.”
This is one of many stories our EmployAbility team hear when they help people with disabilities find employment. Our online job skills training program covers the topic of discrimination and your rights as a person with disability in the workplace and how to overcome barriers.
Dominika Jachym, one of the Employment Coaches has lived experience of a lifelong disability, says that although there have been steps to be more inclusive for people with disabilities entering the workforce, there is still a gap. “In my role, I support people with physical disabilities to prepare for and engage in meaningful employment, and from my own personal experience there is still a great divide.
“Sometimes perceptions on the types of roles available for people living with disability can be based on stereotypes, rather than actual skillset. Also, many of our participants worry about mentioning their disability in the early stages of the employment process, with workplace adjustments seen as too costly, or require “too much effort”. The fear of being overlooked for a promotion due to physical disability rather than being given equal opportunity, can be a very disheartening.”
“Our job is to help people living with physical disability to understand these hurdles, build greater confidence and help navigate these challenges to secure the dream job they deserve. On the flipside, EmployAbility also plays a significant role in educating Employers on best practice with disability and inclusion in the workplace, to ensure disability discrimination is being tackled from all possible angles.”
If you live with physical disability, or you know of someone who lives with disability who’s looking for work and need some support on their job search journey, complete the Expression of Interest form by clicking on the link below or contact our team via the contact us form today!
Resources and Supports
Disability Discrimination Act information – A brief guide to the Disability Discrimination Act | Australian Human Rights Commission
Make a complaint – Complaints | Australian Human Rights Commission
National Information Service for help at any stage of the process call – 1300 656 419 or 02 9284 9600
Fairwork Ombudsman can help build confidence as a person living with disability in the workforce – Employees with disability – Fair Work Ombudsman
Australian Centre for Disability Law – provide free legal advice
State and Territory human rights and equal opportunity agencies also deal with disability discrimination issues under the legislation they administer. The Fair Work Act 2009 also covers discrimination in employment.
- ACT Human Rights Commission
- Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland
- NSW Anti-Discrimination Board
- Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission
- South Australia Equal Opportunity Commission
- Tasmania Equal Opportunity Commission
- Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
- Western Australia Equal Opportunity Commission
Disability discrimination statistics – People with disability in Australia, Disability discrimination – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au)
Case study – Nathanael Peacock – X-ray reveals why Sydney man got fired from job | news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site.