The objectives of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) are to:
- Eliminate, as far as possible, discrimination against persons on the grounds of disability in the areas of work, accommodation, education, access to premises, clubs and sport, the provision of goods, facilities, services and land, existing laws and the administration of Commonwealth laws and programs; and
- Ensure, as far as practicable, that persons with disabilities have the same rights to equality before the law as the rest of the community; and
- Promote recognition and acceptance within the community of the principle that persons with disabilities have the same fundamental rights as the rest of the community.
Specifically, Section 23 of the DDA makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of disability in providing access to or the use of premises where members of the public can enter or use. The DDA is a complaints based document, which requires people to make complaints against a property owner or occupier for any changes to occur. The difficulty with administering the complaints based system is that there were no prescriptive requirements or certainty of compliance provided under Section 23 of the DDA, it simply requires access to premises, but did not state how.
The DDA was amended under Section 31 of the DDA in 2000, which allowed the Attorney General’s Office to develop Disability Standards for premises, similar to those in place for Education and Public Transport.
The ratification of the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 (the ‘Premises Standards’) occurred on 1 May 2011, which sits under the DDA (Australian Government, Attorney General’s Office 2011). The Standards introduced progressive changes to provide greater and inclusive access into buildings for those members of the community with a disability. However, provisions for the emergency egress of those members of the community from the buildings that have now been made accessible were omitted from the Standard.
Likewise, the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport which details the access and mobility requirements for public transport facilities also provides no consideration for emergency egress of people with disability.
The DDA and the Premises Standards do not directly provide prescriptive requirements ensuring a safe accessible path is provided out of the building once entered. Instead, one must look a lot closer at the DDA to find protection measures under Section 5 (direct discrimination), Section 6 (indirect discrimination), Section 15 (employment) and Section 17 (contract staff).