Victoria Legal Aid

Disability discrimination

If you experience discrimination because of your disability, the law may be able to help you. This page describes discrimination and how the law defines disability.

If you are treated unfairly or bullied because of your disability, the law may be able to help you.

State and Commonwealth laws cover where and when disability discrimination is against the law.

'Disability' is defined in these discrimination laws.

Where discrimination is against the law

Disability discrimination is against the law in these protected areas of public life:

  • employment – an employer cannot discriminate:
    • in their terms and conditions of employment
    • during the job application process
    • in promotion or dismissal.

For example, it may be against the law to refuse employment to a courier because they cannot use a mobile phone to receive calls as they are deaf. See Disability discrimination and employment.

  • education – this includes enrolments and the educational facilities provided, such as buildings and equipment. For example, it may be against the law for a school to refuse to accept your enrolment because you need some adjustments made to accommodate your cerebral palsy
  • access to premises used by the public – this includes libraries, government offices, hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, restaurants or shops. For example, all public buildings should have wheelchair access
  • accommodation – if you rent a room, a flat, or a house. For example, it may be unlawful not to allow you to have a guide dog in your flat or room
  • goods, services and facilities – when you are shopping, receiving services from anyone such as doctors, tradespeople, banks or government departments. For example, it may be unlawful to make a person with a disability wait until last to be served in a shop because of any extra time needed to serve them
  • clubs and associations – you cannot be discriminated against if you want to join a club or association. This includes their terms of membership. For example, it may be unlawful to refuse membership of a social club to a person because they use a wheelchair and need some help accessing the social club venues
  • sport – includes all sports except elite sports like the Olympics or other professional competitions and serious competitive sports. For example, if you have the skills to play cricket or swim competitively, you cannot be excluded because you have asthma or are deaf
  • local government – this includes being a councillor, and all aspects of council services, amenities, by-laws and programs.

When discrimination is against the law

State and Commonwealth laws make it unlawful to:

  • directly or indirectly discriminate against a person because of their disability.
  • ask a person with a disability to provide information or answer questions that might be used to discriminate against them – go to Disability discrimination and employment.
  • victimise a person because they have made a disability discrimination complaint.

Employers and people who provide goods, services and accommodation also have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments for people with a disability, so that they can have equal enjoyment and access to services, accommodation and work. See Disability discrimination and employment.

How the law defines disability

'Disability' is defined in Victorian and Commonwealth discrimination laws.

Disability includes:

  • total or partial loss of a bodily function, such as sight, hearing or mobility
  • disfigurement
  • mental health disorders and
  • learning difficulties.

The definition of disability also includes:

  • future disability, such as a health condition that runs in your family that you may develop
  • ‘imputed’ disability, such as something that someone believes another person has, whether or not they do. For example, it would be wrong for a school to assume that you have a learning disability or mental illness just because you have a stutter.

More information

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights CommissionExternal Link

Australian Human Rights CommissionExternal Link

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for discrimination.

Publications and resources

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 06 May 2022

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