Kelly in the Media

Growing number of disability-related complaints to Equal Opportunity Commissioner

Matt Smith | The Advertiser

A MOTHER who was told her special needs daughter could no longer attend an arts class and a man wrongly informed he had to pay clean-up fees for his assistance dog in a hire car are among the growing number of disability-related complaints to the equal opportunity watchdog.

Businesses have been warned to offer equal access to all South Australians as new figures show the number of disability complaints have grown 42 per cent in the past year.

SA’s Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Niki Vincent has reminded businesses it is against the law to discriminate against a person because of disability when providing goods and services.

New figures show that last financial year, the number of complaints lodged to the SA Equal Opportunity Commission grew from 184 to 239, a 30 per cent rise. Complaints on the grounds of disability have grown from 56 to 80. In the past twelve months, some of the case studies cited by Ms Vincent include:

BELINDA, who was refused hotel accommodation because she had a registered assistance dog.

JASON, who was told he could not travel with his trained hearing dog in a hire car, but was then charged a cleaning fee of $100 because he was carrying the dog, despite having thoroughly vacuumed the car before returning it.

CHARLES, who attempted to buy tickets to a sporting event and was advised that the stadium did not sell tickets for a family to sit together if one person used a wheelchair.

CHANTEL, whose daughter was kicked out of a weekend art class because of an intellectual disability.

Ms Vincent said improving access to goods, services, facilities, premises and information for consumers with disability is good for business.

“Not only will it reduce the likelihood of discrimination complaints made against you, but it will also increase your access to the market, and benefit the community, through greater economic participation of people with disability,” she said.

“Over four million people in Australia experience disability. However, businesses can often unintentionally overlook the needs of these consumers, making it difficult for them to access goods and services.

“These businesses may be missing out on a significant customer base, as well as potentially breaching equal opportunity laws.”

Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent said she was not surprised that the nature of complaints has changed.

“With the rollout of the NDIS and also access to social media, people with a disability are becoming more aware of their rights and are able to express themselves more freely,” she said.

“We need to take action based on the economic benefits of inclusion and accessibility.”