Why Australian Businesses Must Accommodate Individuals with Disabilities

By: Sarah Roberts

According to a recent study, Australians with disabilities filed the largest share of complaints related to violations of discrimination-related laws. Overall, 44 percent of total complaints to the Australia Human Rights Commission fell into this category, highlighting the need for business leaders to understand their obligation to accommodate disabled individuals.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 outlaws the discrimination of a person based on their disabilities. The law applies to places of education, public access and employment, but also impacts private businesses. Any place open to the public, including shops, banks, restaurants and hair salons, should take steps to ensure accessibility for anyone with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Avoiding litigation is a crucial business objective, but being proactive regarding inclusivity also offers an opportunity to expand customer bases. The first step for many companies is creating a Disability Discrimination Action Plan designed to improve business services and offer appropriate accommodations to every member of society.

Why Businesses Need Disability Discrimination Action Plans

Developing an Action Plan can help leaders avoid future consequences for failing to comply with the law. First off, learning where a business is failing to create an accessible environment will present the opportunity to remedy those defects.

Action plans have the added benefit of opening a business up to a broader range of customers. Nearly one in five Australians has some form of disability. Neglecting to accommodate these individuals will automatically reduce the potential pool of customers. Excluding disabled members of society will also mean losing business from family, caregivers and others closely connected to those individuals.

Proactively accommodating people living with disabilities will improve a business’s bottom line, increase customer loyalty, widen customer bases and avoid potential legal violations. The benefits of creating an Action Plan are clear, and business leaders can complete theirs in just a few steps.
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Creating a Disability Discrimination Action Plan

Businesses will need to consult with the government, an educational institution or another qualified entity. The process includes six steps.

1. Review the Business

Review current business practices to identify areas where disabled consumers might face difficulties. Without a thorough review of the business, the company can’t know where it is failing to meet its obligations and the needs of possible customers.

2. Target Any Weaknesses

Identify the most urgent concerns or oversights so that companies can begin by devoting resources to making the most significant accommodations.

3. Create a Schedule and Goals

Business leaders might not be able to address every need simultaneously. They should develop a schedule and goals that the business can commit to achieving in a set time period.

4. Develop Strategies for Evaluation

The program should yield measurable results. Business leaders should decide on measurable results to determine the success of their efforts. Perhaps the company will track increases in customers with disabilities, measure staff awareness about appropriate accommodations or detail upgrades to their physical premises.

5. Delegate Responsibility for Implementation to Specific Persons

Companies will need to ensure that they appoint employees or committees with the responsibility of implementing their Action Plan. The individuals will need to understand their obligations to meet the program goals.

6. Share the Information with Employees

Implementing an Action Plan will involve a company-wide effort. Sometimes, the process will include training for staff. For example, customer service employees will need to understand how to better accommodate disabled customers.

Don’t Forget Digital Spaces

The DDA requires that businesses refrain from treating individuals with disabilities less favorably than anyone without disabilities. These requirements pertain to both physical businesses, as well as websites and online stores. Any business with a website or other digital resources available to the public will need to include accommodations. Failing to comply with this law could lead to fines and legal damages, not to mention bad press.

The growing importance of the digital realm is leading to global standards for the disabled. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) lists guidelines that many nations use to instruct their legal requirements. The Australian government uses these standards for its websites.

Accessibility could include transcription and captioning services for video and audio content to accommodate consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Websites can assist blind consumers by offering screen reader technology or audio description. Fortunately, technological innovation offers many advanced solutions for businesses seeking ways to better accommodate their customers.

The Takeaway

Australian businesses should create Disability Discrimination Action Plans that accommodate their customers. Failing to take reasonable steps to provide equal access to individuals with disabilities will expose companies to complaints and other consequences.

However, business leaders should not think about providing services to disabled consumers as a way to protect themselves. Instead, they should embrace the changes as a strategy for expanding their business. The time and resources it may take to modernize a business’s disability accommodations can pay off by increasing the overall market share, attracting new customers, building brand loyalty, and generating goodwill.

With so much to gain, business leaders shouldn’t hesitate to start their plans. Contact Verbit to learn more about how our services can help your business accommodate clients and comply with Australia’s DDA.