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Disability Discrimination Act

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The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability.

Defining disability in the DDA

The DDA defines disability as:

  • total or partial loss of the person's bodily or mental function
  • total or partial loss of a part of the body
  • the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness
  • the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness
  • the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person's body
  • a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction
  • a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in disturbed behaviour.

This can be interpreted to include conditions which are:

  • physical
  • intellectual
  • psychiatric
  • sensory
  • neurological
  • related to learning
  • medical.

This broad definition is meant to ensure that everyone with disability is protected. The DDA covers disabilities:

  • which a person has
  • which a person used to have
  • which a person may have in the future
  • which a person is imputed to have
  • of an associate, such as a friend, partner, carer or family member of a person.

DDA protections

The DDA protects individuals in Australia from discrimination based on disability in areas of public life including employment, education, building access, provision of goods and services, accommodation and sport.

The DDA recognises that discrimination can be:

  • Direct - being treated unfairly on account of their disability. (For example, excluding someone with a mobility impairment from attending an excursion.)
  • Indirect - where there is a condition or requirement imposed which may be the same for everyone, but which unfairly excludes or disadvantages people with disability in a manner that is unreasonable. (For example, a person with a learning disability is not provided the appropriate adjustments such as lecture recordings, a notetaker or adaptive technologies and is therefore denied the same opportunity to learn as other students.)

How does the Disability Discrimination Act apply to education?

The Disability Standards for Education 2005 clarify obligations under the DDA in relation to education and training. The Standards require organisations to take reasonable steps to enable students with disability to participate in education and use facilities and services on the same basis as students without disability. This may include making reasonable adjustments to teaching or assessment practices.

The standards also require universities to develop and implement strategies and programs to prevent harassment or victimisation of students with disability.

In a university context, the objective of the DDA is to provide equal opportunity and a level playing field.

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