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Council Ordered To Pay Compensation For Disability Discrimination

Council ordered to pay compensation for disability discrimination

A Melbourne council has been ordered to pay a wheelchair-bound man $5,000 compensation for disability discrimination.

A tribunal found the council discriminated against him based on his disability during a meeting in 2017.

The man, who has multiple sclerosis, claimed the council forced him to speak at the meeting without assistance.

He says he felt pain and embarrassment as as result.

Council ordered to pay compensation after meeting

The man attended the meeting at the Boroondara Council in July 2017 where he planned to dispute a proposed heritage listing.

In order to reach a microphone fixed to a table in front of him, he had to remove part of his wheelchair. 

Additionally, his feet became caught under his wheelchair as he moved to speak at the table.

As a result, it caused him “acute pain and embarrassment”.


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Tribunal critical of meeting set up

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal member Anita Smith criticised the set up of the microphones by the council.

“I find that the requirement, condition or practice imposed to address the meeting from a fixed table and to speak into a microphone on the fixed table was unreasonable.”

Before the man spoke at the meeting, his daughter tried to move the microphone towards him, but failed.

Despite her efforts, no council staff attempted to help.

“Had a microphone been offered to him away from the table, he would not have suffered any disadvantage,” Ms Smith found.

Council wants advance notice

Representatives for Boroondara council argued it was up to the man to notify them if he needed modifications.

However, Smith rejected this argument, finding there was no practical way to do this.

Furthermore, she noted invitations to meetings don’t provide anywhere to notify the council of any special needs.

What the law says

Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan says it is unlawful to discriminate against someone based on an impairment or disability.

“The law says a person with an impairment or disability cannot be treated less favourably than a person without a disability,” he said.

“Clearly, that’s what happened in this case.

“The law applies to the workplace, and also in the provision of goods and services.

“For example, shops, movie cinemas, public transport, swimming pools, and even in local councils.

“Reaching a fixed microphone in a meeting might not seem like a big deal, however, in this case, it caused the man injury and embarrassment.

“Therefore, the tribunal found it should not have happened.”


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