Inquiry into legal barriers for people with disabilities a significant opportunity

Community Law Australia commended the appointment of Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes AM to the new inquiry into Legal Barriers for People with Disabilities announced by the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus yesterday.

The inquiry, which will be conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is a crucial opportunity to address the barriers that people with disabilities face in terms of access to justice.

Community Law Australia Spokesperson Carolyn Bond said that the Legal Australia Wide survey findings released just last year revealed that people with a disability were twice as likely to experience legal problems – and may not always know where to seek help.

“We know that people with disabilities are part of the extremely vulnerable group in terms of legal need, so it is excellent that the ALRC will be tasked with understanding the full extent of the access to justice crisis in this area,” Ms Bond said.

“Speaking with CLCs who work in the area of disability, this inquiry is timely and a much needed examination of the current laws and legal frameworks that may be preventing people from accessing their rights.

“The ALRC review is a great opportunity to examine any gaps or barriers to access that people with a disability face, given we already know they are twice as likely to experience a legal problem.

“CLCs from around the country are currently at the National CLCs Conference in Cairns, discussing issues of access to justice and the barriers that people encounter,” Ms Bond said.

Dan Stubbs from the National Association of CLCs Disability Network said that some of the common barriers for people with disabilities in terms of accessing justice are a lack of specialist advocacy and advice services, gaps in the law, inaccessible government services and powerful corporations who don’t consider the needs of people with disabilities and/or actively discriminate against them.

“One of the most common problems encountered is that corporations like banks, airlines, retailers, education providers, and large employers prevent people with disabilities from participating actively in society through discriminatory policies and practices.

“Improving access to justice for people with disabilities is a vital aspect of other current Federal government reforms such as DisabilityCare Australia and the Better Schools plan. Mr Innes is likely to recognise the importance of access to justice issues as an integral part of the broader reforms to ensure full participation by people with disabilities in the Australian community.

“As someone who has been involved in discrimination and disability rights issues for over 30 years, Mr Innes brings phenomenal expertise to this area and is well placed to identify problems and the vital need for reforms and improved services,” Mr Stubbs said.

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