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Disability  

 

INTRODUCTION
WHAT IS DISABILITY?
THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1981
THE RIGHT TO COMPLAIN
OFFENCES AND PENALTIES

INTRODUCTION

Human Rights Legislation recognizes the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family and as of June 1988, people with disabilities are protected from discrimination by the Human Rights Act. From time to time, we all generalize about people - their capabilities, personalities and faults. Human Rights Legislation asks us to discard our generalizations and look more closely at people as individuals. Every person therefore has a right to freedom from discrimination because of disability in the areas of:

  1. Housing
  2. Goods, facilities and services
  3. Employment
  4. Membership in organizations
  5. Advertising
  6. Contracts

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WHAT IS DISABILITY?

The Human Rights Act defines disability as any person who has any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness, including diabetes, epilepsy, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, human immunodeficiency virus, paralysis, amputation, lack of physical coordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog, wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device.”

It is illegal to discriminate against a disabled person on the ground of handicap. However, the biggest handicap suffered by disabled persons are the unjustified assumptions made about them by others.

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THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1981

The Human Rights Act permits an exception to the right to equal treatment without discrimination because of disability only if doing or engaging in the act of discrimination was reasonable or excusable in all the circumstances. For example, it might be excusable to refuse to transport common mobility aids such as folding wheelchairs in a taxi if such aids will not fit in the taxi, although to minimize these instances, drivers should keep their trunks free and know how to fold a wheelchair. However, it is unlikely to be excusable to refuse to transport a blind person who is accompanied by a dog guide merely because the driver does not want a dog in his or her vehicle.

The Human Rights Act does not give any person any right to be given or retained in any employment for which he is not qualified or which he is not able to perform. However, the Act does require employers to take steps to facilitate the employment of disabled persons, provided that those steps do not involve unreasonable hardship for employers. (Further rules are due to be made defining the expression for these purposes). Consequently, the failure by an employer to provide a wheelchair ramp may not by itself amount to discrimination contrary to the Act. However, if someone exhibits discrimination on the ground of disability in other ways, there may be grounds for an action against such person. In any event, it is a good practice for landlords, employers and providers of services to explore the community and government resources available to modify premises, restructure jobs and adapt environment to facilitate equal opportunity and treatment for people with handicaps.

The Building Code now requires all new buildings and major renovations to existing building to provide facilities enabling all disabled persons to have access to premises, services, goods, facilities or accommodation.

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THE RIGHT TO COMPLAIN

The Human Rights Act gives anyone the right to complain to the Human Rights Commission if the person believes that he or she has been discriminated against because he or she is a disabled person. The Act forbids anyone to threaten a reprisal or take any action against anyone who complains to the Commission or assists with a complaint. The Human Rights Commission have a staff of officers which investigate complaints and attempt to conciliate and settle them. Each complaint is registered and assigned to such an officer and a copy of the complaint is delivered to the person(s) against whom the complaint is made.

If the complaint does not settle or conciliate the Commission will refer it to the Minister of Community, Culture and Sports who may, in his discretion, appoint a public Board of Enquiry to investigate the matter.

The Human Rights Commission is always available to assist in advising on your rights, responsibilities and obligations as members of the human family.

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OFFENCES AND PENALTIES

Any person found guilty of an offence under the Human Rights Act shall be liable on summary conviction:

  1. for a first offence, a fine of $5,000;


  2. for a second or subsequent offence, imprisonment for three years or a fine of $15,000 or both such fine and imprisonment. (The Human Rights Act, 1981, Section 22 (2) Offences and Penalties)

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