Equality, inclusion and accessibility for people with disability

Equality, inclusion and accessibility for people with disability

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

We made two recent submissions calling for greater protections from discrimination for people with disability, and changes to Victorian laws to ensure people with disability can fully participate and receive fair treatment.

‘We assist thousands of Victorians with disability who have faced discrimination or can't access our legal system every year,’ said Rowan McRae, Executive Director of Civil Justice, Access and Equity at Victoria Legal Aid. ‘We need stronger laws which prevent people with disability being subjected to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, and changes to how the legal system operates to make sure people can access the legal help they need when they have been mistreated,' she said. 

Disability Royal Commission

Our submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability recommends law reform in education and employment.

Our client Samara explained the impact of her son being excluded starting prep, because he has autism. ‘We were told by a school leader that it was because my son has autism and they thought it would be too difficult to teach him and he should go to a special school instead. Being a mother of a child with additional needs pushed me to try so hard. I am taking him to therapies since last three years. I have to work full time. I have no family member here in Australia. I have been separated because of domestic violence where child protection has involved. I am trying so hard to raise my children safe and ready to be independent, responsible, productive members of the community. In addition to all this hard work, facing with this decision and handling all this process was absolutely impossible for me,’ said Samara.

We helped Samara to bring a direct discrimination complaint to ensure her son could go to school, learn in the classroom, and make friends– the same things all parents want for their kids. Stronger anti-discrimination laws are critical to preventing people with disability experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation over the course of their lives.

We recommended law reform to empower human rights commissions to enforce these laws, to remove the burden on individuals like Samara. We also advocated for improvements to the current system to make bringing complaints easier for people targeted by discrimination, and clear obligations on employers and education providers to take proactive steps to prevent discrimination.'

Victorian Government Disability Action Plan

We also contributed to the Victorian government’s consultations for the next Disability Action Plan (2021–2024) making recommendations for long-term areas of focus to improve how Victorian laws treat people with disability, particularly in relation to the justice system. State disability plans are a key tool to drive whole-of-government action and resourcing.

‘In the aftermath of COVID-19, the next state disability plan is an opportunity to ensure people have their disability appropriately taken into account at every stage of our legal system. Every Victorian should be supported to fully and equally participate in court and tribunal hearings that make important decisions about their lives,’ said Rowan.

Our recommendations

  1. People with disability should be supported to understand and fully participate in legal proceedings affecting them (e.g. better referral pathways, legal sector training on accessibility, trauma-informed and inclusive services, and client-centred service design).
  2. Gaps between the NDIS and mainstream services should be addressed by introducing a NDIS service safety net where market failure leads to people with complex needs engaging with the criminal justice system. This includes appropriate therapeutic disability supports are available in custody, and reducing delays in providing pathways out of restrictive environments.
  3. A whole-of-government commitment to addressing the overrepresentation of people with disability in the criminal justice system should include: access to specialist courts and services; human rights protections for people with disability in the system; and targets for legal sector staff training.
  4. The Disability Act review should prioritise improving treatment plans, including requiring detailed transition processes, accessible formats and timely provision, and include forensic residents in residential treatment facilities under the Disability Act for the purposes of a treatment plan.

Read the submissions


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