Discrimination & Disabilities

20th Feb 15

In today’s day and age it is hoped that discrimination against the disabled is well and truly dead. Unfortunately good intentions aside, Australia (and many other countries throughout the world) are still in a state of flux with unawareness a significant driver.


Discrimination – doesn’t happen today, does it?

Many of us would think that discrimination is something that is blatant, direct and something that happens ‘in the playground’ – characterised by verbal and physical abuse, exclusion and the ignoring of the individual.

Contrary to this general perception, discrimination against the disabled comes in many forms and even from the parts of society we would least expect.

An example of this includes the Hervey Bay City Council in 2004, who were instructed through court that they had discriminated against a spina bifida individual.


“KH was born with spina bifida. Because of her disability, she uses a catheter to go to the bathroom. The catheter needs to be carefully cleaned before and after each use.

KH enjoys going to the park with her family and friends. However, the toilet facilities at her local park only have external hand basins, meaning that other people at the park could see KH cleaning her catheter. KH felt very upset about this.

In response to a complaint, the council argued that installing internal basins would impose an unjustifiable hardship on it. The court disagreed.

The court said that only having external basins led to very embarrassing and undignified experiences for people like KH. Installing internal basins would also allow more people to enjoy the park. The court finally considered the costs and said it was a sum the council could afford.”

Access for All Alliance (Hervey Bay) Inc v Hervey Bay City Council [2004] FMCA 915[1]


If you want to learn more about possible discrimination against the disabled, the Australian Centre for Disability Law provides some great resources and the Using Disability Discrimination Law in New South Wales is an insightful read:



International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The light in the tunnel is that there are organisations and government sectors that are attempting to breakdown the misconceptions around disabled individuals and educate the masses through high profile campaigns.

One way that this is being done internationally is through International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is celebrated on the third of December.

“The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life”[2].


Lights Up

In Australia, where one in five persons has a disability, the campaign ‘Lights Up’ is being utilised to bring attention to the plight of those disabled and creating a greater awareness around the country.

The Lights Up campaign follows on from other high profile campaigns where iconic buildings, artworks and structures are lit up in colour to draw attention to the cause. It represents a highly visible and tangible place to “provoke curiosity, start a conversation and awareness of the everyday contribution…. people with disabilities make to Australian life”[3].

The chosen colours are orange and blue, and represent two pillars:

  • Blue – equality and accessibility, and symbolizing support for dignity, rights and well-being, and
  • Orange – harmony and diversity, the benefits of the integration of disabled persons in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.


A great way to visually represent persons with disabilities and create an educational starting point for the general public, the Lights Up campaign is a significant step in the right direction in terms of alleviating some of the unawareness around the country.

For more information on the Lights Up campaign, you can visit the Lights Up page at the International Day of People with Disability (IDPWP) site

On December 3d, you may have seen the campaign in action, with iconic structures such as the Telstra Tower and Questacon (ACT), Pitt Street mall catenary lights (NSW), The Story Bridge and Toowoomba City Hall (Queensland), the Bell Tower (WA), Adelaide Oval and the Rundle Latern (SA), Hobart’s central roundabout (Tas) and Melbourne’s Federation Square (Vic) all lit up.


Have you seen a case of a business getting it right?

Have you seen a business undertaking specific activities to help educate and limit the unawareness of disability and discrimination? We’d love to hear some of the positive stories on the ground - tell us in a comment below.


Written by

As National Sales and Operations Manager, Mark’s role includes building and maintaining business relationships, and managing and overseeing larger projects, all while keeping a watchful eye out for business opportunities.  Having a background in the health and disability sector provides Mark with the necessary understanding to assist clients when considering access solutions for people with mobility requirements.

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