A business was intending to buy a building for renovation and subsequent use as its own premises. It proposed to have, from the outset, an accessible ground floor and, later, lift access to the first floor.
The business applied to the then HREOC now the AHRC for an exemption from the DDA on the grounds that it could not afford to install the lift at the outset, and because they were intending to deliver their service from the accessible ground floor. They wanted an exemption until they could afford the lift, that is, that it created unjustifiable hardship..
The Commission refused the application. It pointed out that exemptions should ordinarily only be granted when they contribute to the objectives of the DDA and that 'unjustifiable hardship' is a defence against a complaint rather than the basis for an exemption. If something causes, in terms of the DDA, unjustifiable hardship, then it is not prohibited under the DDA and therefore does not require an exemption.
The Commission advised that exemptions and 'unjustifiable hardship' do not prevent complaints being lodged, although each may contribute to defence against such complaints.
The Commission advised service providers with disability discrimination concerns to prepare a Disability Action Plan and to lodge it with the then HREOC to show that action is being taken to eliminate disability discrimination.
The Commission pointed out that application for an exemption would need to be supported by demonstration that the exemption would serve the public interest and advised that the procedure would be a more difficult than preparing an action plan.