Date: 
Thursday 1 December 2011

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said today that more needs to be done to improve the opportunities for people with disability in our society.

In a speech ahead of the annual International Day of People with Disability on Saturday 3rd December, Commissioner Innes handed out the bouquets and brickbats for 2011.

The good news is, the year in review saw the outstanding announcement of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Politicians should be commended for getting the ball rolling for a scheme that will lead to a fair and equitable system for the delivery of disability services across Australia.

“A National Disability Insurance Scheme has the potential to make a huge difference for the human rights of people with disability and their families and enhance the extent to which people with disability - can participate in and contribute to Australian society.” said Commissioner Innes.

Accolades are due to cinema chains and movie distributors. The field of visual and audio entertainment has seen positive progress for people with disability. This year, captions and audio descriptions on 60 screens in cinemas across Australia have become available during every session at which the movie is shown.

The airline industry features for the third year in a row for worst practices affecting people with disability. Airline exclusion still exists with Jetstar, Virgin and Tiger continuing their policy of refusing to carry more than two people using wheelchairs on each aircraft.

“There is an endemic problem in the assistance that particularly budget airlines provide to people with disability, it comes down to ineffective staff training and a lack of available employees,” said Commissioner Innes.

The issue of employment also dominated the year in disability - the low number of workers with disability in the Commonwealth public service needs to be redressed. In Australia it is 3.1 percent, in New Zealand, it is 10.4 percent.

“There is little sign of improvement in recruitment of people with disability. The recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report revealed that while employment of the general population is 80 percent, for people with disability, it is 40 percent,” he said.

Also on Commissioner Innes’ list of best and worst was the issue of language and attitude towards people with disability. It’s all in a word, but words do matter.

“This year, I add my name to the long list of critics - of Kyle Sandilands, for his unacceptable use of language demeaning women and people with disability. If he thinks that jokes using words such as spastic and retard are funny, he should be removed from Australian air waves,” said Commissioner Innes.

Media contact: Neena Mairata (02) 9284 9862 or 0417 957 525.