2019 impact and highlights
Creating a fairer National Disability Insurance Scheme
Our new project ‘A Fairer NDIS’ was established in July this year to improve outcomes under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for people with disability.
The NDIS has the potential to provide choice and control for people with disability as well as early intervention services for many Australians who have never received assistance before.
However, those who should be benefitting from the scheme report a range of barriers, particularly in the application and appeal processes which can be long, complicated, inconsistent and hard to understand.
‘NDIA decision-making needs to be timely, transparent, accountable and consistent, so that participants and would-be participants can fully exercise choice and control over the supports they want.’ – PIAC Senior Solicitor, Chadwick Wong
Our work seeks to ensure that applicants and appellants are treated fairly and get the support they need, no matter where they live or what their circumstances.
Standing up for equal participation
PIAC has been advocating in partnership with People with Disability Australia for urgent changes to the Disability Discrimination Act to ensure people with disability have a right to reasonable adjustments to ensure equal participation in society, including in the workplace.
‘Reasonable adjustments’ can include a range of adaptations to remove barriers to inclusion. In the workplace, this may include specialised software, adapted office equipment or flexible work arrangements.
The Federal Court, in the case of Sklavos, took an unexpected approach to the obligation on employers, service providers and others to provide reasonable adjustments, significantly undermining the effectiveness of the provisions.
PIAC has brought its legal and law reform expertise to the issue, to develop a potential solution for government. We continue to work with PWDA and others to ensure these amendments are made, so that people with disability can participate fully in public life, including in employment, education, transport and other services.
Ending mental health discrimination by insurers
We continue to drive changes to ensure that people with mental health conditions are treated fairly by insurers. This is a major body of work that has delivered system-wide reform, especially in travel insurance.
Our focus is now on life insurers who automatically refuse cover, impose unreasonably broad mental health exclusions or excessive additional premiums on people who have a current or prior mental health condition. We have achieved justice for a number of people who have been treated unfairly in this way through our casework. We also put these types of unfair and discriminatory practices under the spotlight of the Banking Royal Commission in 2018. The Commission’s final report, released in February this year, recommended closing the loophole that allowed insurers
to cancel policies for innocent non-disclosure of a mental health history in circumstances where it is entirely unrelated to the illness that is the subject of an insurance claim.
The report also recommended enforceable codes of conduct for insurers, changes to insurer’s powers to cancel a policy, the introduction of unfair contract terms, and sweeping cultural change. This is an important step towards establishing a fairer system.
Making technology accessible
The Commonwealth Bank is taking action to ensure their touchscreen Albert EFTPOS machines are more usable for people who are blind or have low vision, following legal action taken by PIAC late last year with the support of Blind Citizens Australian and the Grata Fund.
In settling the case brought by PIAC clients Graeme Innes and Nadia Mattiazzo, the CBA agreed to introduce a range of changes to make the EFTPOS machines more accessible.
The CBA acknowledged our clients and other Australians who are blind or vision impaired have had difficulty using Albert’s touchscreen technology to enter their PINs.
The CBA is now upgrading the Albert’s software to improve accessibility, and is providing additional training for merchants so that they can help customers use the new accessibility features. CBA is also engaging with Blind Citizens Australia on the use of a Tactile Guide, to make it more straightforward for blind or vision impaired people to enter their PIN.
Importantly, the CBA has endorsed the Australian Banking Association Accessibility Principles for Banking Services, which means that accessibility will be a key requirement of product development in future.