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Australia - Disability
The various authorities in Australia began to change emphasis from financial considerations to the quality of service that was provided to disabled persons. The country’s government began reviewing services for disabled people early during the 1980s and as a result the Disability Services Act 1986 came into being. This gave disabled people the right to be included in all aspects of daily life in the community including housing, education, equal opportunities, employment and access to a variety of services. At the same time a number of important pieces of legislation regarding discrimination and equal opportunities were passed and improvements in the level of services and quality of life can be seen throughout the country.
It is also the commission which can help individuals and organisations to understand the rights of disabled people and ensure that they are meeting their responsibilities. The commission can hold inquiries into complaints, help to negotiate guidelines, encourage and support organisations that are developing their own Disability Action Plans and work closely with communities to promote awareness and understanding.
The Disability Discrimination Act also makes it illegal to harass somebody on the grounds of their disability. If you are able-bodied but feel that you have been discriminated against on the grounds of your connection with a disabled person, you have the right to make a complaint. The Australian Human Rights Commission has a comprehensive website with a number of guides to the various acts and standards which are required.
There may be occasions when an individual or organisation will qualify for an exemption from the act. If this is the case they can make an application to the commission. Nobody can simply declare that they are exempt, they must have an agreement from the authorities. Most exemptions that are issued are temporary and when this expires a further application will need to be made if applicable.
It is important that those who are disabled are treated as any other member of the community without making things difficult for them. One of the major issues is the access to premises. An organisation can be guilty of discrimination in a number of ways. A person who is using an assistance animal such as a guide dog should be allowed to enter shops as other customers do. If an organisation only has disabled access to certain parts of the premises then this is also discrimination. They should also ensure that access is just as safe for a disabled person as it is for an able-bodied person. Access to premises covers a wide range of places such as cafes, restaurants, shops, schools, public footpaths, government buildings, parks, public transport, cinemas and libraries.
Groups that provide information and support for the disabled can be found all over Australia. The Disability Information Network Australia is based in Victoria and provides information and assistance where needed. National Disability Services (NDS) is a network of groups that provide support all over the country and is not overseen by the government. The website has a handy search facility so you are able to find services close to home. The first port of call for assistance should be the local government for the area you are in as most have information on their websites regarding the services which are offered in your state. Centrelink is another essential as you may be entitled to benefits as a result of your disability.
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