Discrimination due to disability occurs when someone is treated unfairly or not given access to the same opportunities as others because of their disability. However, there are laws in place to help reduce the incidences of discrimination. These laws include the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Equal Opportunity Act 2010

Discrimination in Education

It is unlawful for education providers and institutions to treat someone unfairly because of a personal characteristic or disability. Education providers are not allowed by law to:

  • Refuse to accept a person’s application for admission because of their disability
  • Limit access to benefits that other students without a disability have
  • Expel a student based on their disability

It is expected that an educational institution would make reasonable adjustments so that the person with a disability can participate in the educational program. There are exceptions to this including unjustifiable hardship to the provider (in relation to significant changes such as structural, to the program or supports) or if the person with a disability would still not be able to participate in the educational program when adjustments to the program or the environment are made.

Discrimination in the workplace

It is a common concern that if you have a disability that you will face discrimination in your workplace. However, it is unlawful for employers to deny job opportunities, promotions, or training on the basis of your disability. They are also not legally allowed to ask questions about your health or disability unless it directly impacts on your role, or on the safety of yourself or others as they are required by law to provide a safe work environment. Your employer is required to make reasonable adjustments to help you continue your work such as making some modifications to your workspace, flexibility to attend medical appointments, reviewing work duties or changing/reducing your hours of work. Your health information is also protected by relevant privacy legislation and therefore they are not allowed to share this information without your consent. For further information on employment click here.

Social Discrimination

Social discrimination is probably the most widely experienced form of discrimination for people impacted by Huntington’s disease. Symptoms of Huntington’s disease include involuntary movements, poor balance and coordination and changes to speech. Unfortunately, these symptoms can often be confused with someone who is drug or alcohol affected, and therefore it is not uncommon for a person with Huntington’s disease to be refused entry/service into bars or pubs because of these wrong perceptions. Having supportive friends and family to help inform venues of your diagnosis can help reduce the likelihood of this type of discrimination.

At other times, social discrimination can take the form of exclusion from conversations, being the target of unkind comments, or treated as someone less worthy of time and respect. Unfortunately, social discrimination is hard to manage by law and relies on a person being able to advocate for themselves in social settings.

Talking to a friend, family member or professional about your experiences may help how you feel, but also give you some strategies to deal with these situations in the future. Talking to the person or organisation/business that was responsible for the discrimination may help resolve the issue, and also educate them on how they can better support people with Huntington’s disease in the future.

Discrimination in relation to goods and services

According to the law, a provider for goods and services cannot treat or intend to treat someone unfairly because of their disability.

A provider of goods and services includes retail outlets, restaurants, entertainment venues, banks, transport, telecommunications, services provided by tradespeople or professionals, services provided by the government. Discrimination can occur if a provider refuses to sell/provide goods to you based on your disability, or alters the terms on which the goods or services are delivered/provided to you.

It is also expected that the provider would make reasonable adjustments to ensure equitable access to their goods or services (there are some exceptions). For example, because of the symptoms of HD, people are no longer able to drive and therefore do not hold a drivers licence. It would be unlawful for a pub/bar to only accept entry into the venue with a valid driver’s licence as the only form of ID.

If you believe that you are experiencing any form of discrimination, you can make a complaint either directly to the organisation/business in question, to the relevant Commissioner or Ombudsmen or to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission or your relevant state body. You can also contact a disability advocacy organisation for further information or assistance.