Australia: Disability and Exchange Profile
Disability resources and exchange opportunities in Australia.
Australia is a haven for people who appreciate diversity, whether the Great Barrier Reef’s stunning eco-diversity, Sydney’s multiculturalism, or the broad range of opportunities for volunteering, studying, or gaining professional development. This tipsheet includes disability resources for the land “Down Under.”
On this Page:
Disability laws in Australia such as the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) require public transportation, education, telecommunication, and buildings to be accessible. Important laws to know include:
- Disability Services Act of 1986: Stipulates that services and
accommodations must be provided for people with disabilities, and that
employers may not discriminate against a person solely on the basis of
- Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1992: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. A Disability Discrimination Commissioner, appointed by the Australian Human Rights Commission, ensures the implementation of the DDA and negotiates disability guidelines.
Australian Human Rights Commission - A brief guide to the DDA, a legislation index, and more.
DREDF Country Laws Index - Factsheets on disability-related laws in Australia and other countries.
“Out of all the risky things I did that I thought I probably wouldn't be able to do, people in Melbourne were almost always very eager to help and encourage me.” – Kevin Cosgrove, an exchange student with a vision impairment
Generally, most public transit, parking, streets, and buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. Some Australian cities often have narrow sidewalks or streets crowded with retail stores and pedestrians. Modern accessibility improvements include ramps, curb cuts, tactile indicators, and audible street crossing indicators. All public places accept guide dogs. Since many attractions are outside of the cities in areas that may have limited accessibility, call ahead on these sorts of trips to make sure you can be properly accommodated.
Accessible Travel Links:
U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs - Accessibility information for visitors to Australia.
Public transport in Australia is becoming more efficient and accessible for people with disabilities in order to comply with the provisions of the DDA and the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (2002). Different public transportation options, and the services provided to people with disabilities, may vary among the six states in Australia. Specific information is available on each state’s government website.
While studying in Melbourne, American student Kevin Cosgrove noted that "most bus and train stops had a button you could push that would play an audio message of when the next bus or train would be arriving. I also noticed incline ramps for a lot of the train stops. For route planning, you can call 131-MET and tell them where you are and where you need to be, and an operator will tell you how to get there using combinations of buses, trams and trains.”
Australian Human Rights Commission Transport Accessibility - Transportation resources for all states.
South Australia Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure - Read road safety tips and laws on using a motorized scooter.
2012 article from the Canberra Times on efforts by the Australian Capital Territory Government to improve public transport accessibility for people with disabilities.
Students with disabilities in Australia are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. Coverage is not limited to those who are permanent Australian residents or citizens. According to the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training, “fee-paying international students have the right of access to the full range of services typically provided to Australian students, including counseling services.” However, “they are required by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) to take out private health insurance and provide for their own medical expenses.”
Australian colleges and universities are prohibited from refusing admission on the basis of disability, and they must make every effort to accommodate a student with a disability. As in the United States, university students with disabilities in Australia can often arrange for note takers, readers, sign language interpreters and accommodations for exams. Students who will need disability-related accommodations should contact the institution as early as possible after admission to discuss arrangements.
Education Access Links
Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training - A fact sheet on international students with disabilities, how to access services, and visa considerations.
Disability Services Australia - An overview, timeline, and case studies of education for people with disabilities in Australia, past and present.
Future Unlimited - Student support services in Australia, including those for students with disabilities.
Open Universities Australia - Alternative format study materials such as transcripts of lectures for students with a hearing impairment, or materials in Braille, e-text, DAISY format or large print for students with sight impairment.
Disability organizations have inside information regarding general accessibility, laws, and in-country contacts that can enhance your experience abroad.
MIUSA's Disability Organizations database - A comprehensive list of disability organizations working in Australia.
NCDE Links - Look up Australian contacts for a specific disability or general resources on accessible travel, disability, and exchange
NICAN - A directory of services available to people with disabilities in Australia. The database has information on recreation, tourism, sports and the arts for people with disabilities. The website also posts announcements about upcoming disability-related events.
WheelChair Tours Australia - provides travel and tour options for people with mobility disabilities and people without disabilities. They also provide helpful links to other disability services and organizations around Australia.
Australian Sign Language Interpreters' Association - Links to Deaf Societies by state and information for booking Australian Sign Language interpreters.
Auslan Signbank - A language resources site for Auslan (Australian Sign Language), including a dictionary, grammar examples, and information on the Deaf community in Australia.
National Relay Service - People who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment can use this 24 hour service anywhere in Australia to make a phone call. All standard internet relay calls within Australia are free.
In Australia, the term SLD (Specific/Significant Learning Difficulty/Disabilty) or LD (Learning Difficulty) are used interchangeably and as an umbrella term for a variety of difficulties which may or may not be dyslexia. Dyslexia is recognized in Australian under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) and under the Human Rights Commission.
Australian Dyslexia Association - A Global Partner of the International Dyslexia Association
Blind or Low-Vision Resources
Vision Australia - A nation-wide organization for people who are blind or visually impaired. They provide free services such as independent living services, peer support, orientation and mobility training for Australian citizens and will work with non-citizens for a fee.
Bringing Service Animals
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) regulates the importation of animals, controlling the types of animals that can come in and the countries they come from.
Regulations on service animals in public places may vary from state to state. In Queensland, for example, The Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act of 2009 ensures that every person who relies on a guide, hearing or assistance dog has the same access rights as others to public places and public passenger vehicles. Check with the government of the state you will be visiting to learn about specific service dog legislation, as well as any required documentation or identification.
Service Animal Links:
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service - Detailed information on the Australian government’s regulations on service dogs.
Australian Government Therapeutic Goods Administration - “Traveling with medicines or medical devices into Australia” – Free information and technical advice on taking prescription drugs and medications into Australia.
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing - General guidance and frequently asked questions for travelers bringing medicines to and from Australia.
CDC Health Information for Travelers to Australia - Information on bringing prescription medications and other items you may need.
People with disabilities who are interested in opportunities to volunteer, study, intern or participate in other international programs in Australia are encouraged to contact the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) for further information.
Exchange Opportunities Links
La Trobe University - La Trobe offers a Deaf Studies postgraduate program in Melbourne for those interested in learning AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language).
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD) - When OSD launched Project Access, its inaugural study abroad trip to the South Pacific, it invited students registered with the OSD and their family members to join staff for disability accessibility and policy research in Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, countries noted for their accessibility to people with disabilities. Visit the website to view photos and student-produced footage from the trips.
Although efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, MIUSA/NCDE cannot be held liable for inaccuracy, misinterpretation or complaints arising from these listings. Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE. Please advise NCDE of any inaccuracies you may find.