Ensuring Equality in Education: How Australian Laws are Leaving Students with Print Disabilities Behind

Media and Arts Law Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 70-83, 2010

Posted: 30 Aug 2010

See all articles by Paul Harpur

Paul Harpur

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: August 29, 2010

Abstract

University studies require students to read a large number of textbooks. This paper will build upon an earlier paper in this Review to report on primary research and analyse recent reforms to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), which gained royal assent in July 2009. These reforms have repealed and replaced the definition of direct and indirect discrimination. This paper will analyse how the reform of the definition of indirect discrimination has failed to address case law which creates substantial barriers for students with print disabilities. Finally, this paper analyses problems caused when the approach of indirect discrimination from the High Court in State of New South Wales v Amery interacts with the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) Pt VB Div 3.

Twenty years ago, people with print disabilities had extremely limited access to educational materials. A person who could not see a textbook to read it, had problems holding textbooks due to motor disabilities, or had disabilities which prevented the processing of words, would have had limited educational and career opportunities. The technology of the day meant that there were very few, if any, computers, and scanners were unheard of. Computers, scanners and the internet have created a world where people with print disabilities can become leading lawyers, politicians and business people. For example: one of Australia's leading academics and former Dean of the University of Sydney Law Faculty, Professor Ron McCullum OA, is totally blind; the Governor of New York, David Paterson, is legally blind; and the billionaire chairman of the Virgin Group Ltd, Sir Richard Branson, is dyslexic.

With the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA), universities in Australia have been required to take reasonable steps to ensure that students with disabilities are not discriminated against. In July 2009, the Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Act 2009 (Cth) (DDOHRLA) received royal assent. These amendments, inter alia, repealed and replaced the tests for direct and indirect discrimination. This paper will analyse whether these reforms have improved the ability of students with print disabilities to access education. In particular, this paper will ask whether the reforms have increased the ability of students with print disabilities to obtain accessible textbooks.

Keywords: Disabilities, accessible textbooks, university students

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Harpur, Paul David, Ensuring Equality in Education: How Australian Laws are Leaving Students with Print Disabilities Behind (August 29, 2010). Media and Arts Law Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 70-83, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1668096

Paul David Harpur (Contact Author)

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

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