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Legislation and human rights

Legislation and principles

The Disability Services Act 2006,  section 11 defines disability as follows:

  1. A disability is a person’s condition that—
    1. is attributable to—
      1. an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment; or
      2. a combination of impairments mentioned in subparagraph (i); and
    2. results in—
      1. a substantial reduction of the person’s capacity for communication, social interaction, learning, mobility or self-care or management; and
      2. the person needing support.
  2. For subsection (1), the impairment may result from an acquired brain injury.
  3. The disability must be permanent or likely to be permanent.
  4. The disability may be, but need not be, of a chronic episodic nature.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 promotes equal rights, equal opportunity and equal access for people with disabilities across Australia. This Act defines disability as:

  • total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions
  • total or partial loss of a part of the body
  • the presence in the body of organisms 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;

and includes disability that:

  • presently exists
  • previously existed but no longer exists
  • may exist in the future
  • is imputed to a person (meaning it is thought or implied that the person has disability but does not).

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Australia was one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 17 July 2008. The United Nations states

“All persons with disabilities have the right to be free from discrimination in the enjoyment of their rights.  This includes the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of disability, but also on any other basis such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

The following short video developed by the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU) summaries the rights of people with a disability under the convention.

The following infographic from the Australian Human Rights Commission (2014) provides an overview of disability in Australia.

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