Speaking at the National Disability Forum 2014, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs, said the complaints process was one of the most effective ways to help the commission advocate on behalf of people with disabilities.
"One way that we are best suited to help is for you to bring a complaint," she said. "That is very easy. You can pick up the phone—we have a lot of people manning the phones for eight hours a day at least—and we can follow that up."
"There is not a lot of paperwork on your behalf. We can pick it up and start to tease out exactly where the failure to comply with the obligation arises and usually conciliate that with the relevant organisation."
Professor Triggs said the commission successfully conciliated about half of the complaints it received, with the remainder often pursued by the commission with relevant government departments or businesses.
"If you feel that your child or any other aspect of the disability community has a concern about the extent to which they are being discriminated against in terms of the disability act, then it is important that you come to the commission," she said.
"One of the things I am very proud about the commission is the access to social justice that is achieved through the complaints process … Without any cost to the community directly or indirectly to the person or entity making the complaint, you can come to the commission and we will investigate the facts and make some form of determination."
Information on how to make a complaint under the Disability Discrimination Act is available on the Australian Human Rights Commission's site.
In the past, complaints made by the public have led to major advances in access services in Australia. In 1999, a Western Australian Deaf man, John Byrne, lodged a disability discrimination complaint against his local cinema for not providing captioned screenings, and this led directly to the launch of captioned cinema in 2001.
Similarly, complaints in the early 2000s about the low levels of captioning on free-to-airs, and the lack of captioning on subscription television, led the Australian Human Rights Commission to broker deals between industry and consumer groups. These resulted in rising caption quotas on free-to-air and subscription TV, and ultimately led to new television quotas being included in the Broadcasting Services Act in 2012.
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