Scott vs Telstra

Mr. Scott, with others, complained that Telstra indirectly discriminated against him because it had not provided him with a telephone typewriter (TTY) in the same way it provides standard handsets to its other customers.

Telstra argued that it was not discriminating against Mr. Scott in supplying him a standard handset, not a TTY, as it did to its other customers because supplying TTYs was not one of its services.

The Commission acknowledged that the DDA could not direct a business to provide a service beyond that which it did normally. However, the Commission did conclude that Telstra was in the business of providing a telecommunication network, not a telecommunications network via a standard handset. Sir Ronald found that Telstra had required Mr. Scott to comply with a requirement or condition of being able to use a standard handset in order to have access to the network. It was accepted by the Commission that Mr. Scott and others like him could not comply with this requirement whereas a substantially higher proportion of people without a profound hearing loss could.

The Commission further found that the imposition of this requirement by Telstra was unreasonable because there were other options available to it, for example by supplying TTYs where needed but charging, if this was warranted, a different rental rate.

Telstra argued that the cost of supplying TTYs would cause it unjustifiable hardship. Whilst accepting part of the evidence for this claim, the Commission concluded that the cost would be offset by the "enormous benefits" of TTYs and therefore rejected this submission.

The Commission concluded that the respondent "failed to take seriously the impact that the enactment of the Disability Discrimination Act could have upon its operations".

The Commission ordered the provision by Telstra of $600 to Mr. Scott towards the purchase and/or maintenance of a TTY, with further provision later for a replacement TTY, and $250 for Mr. Scott's expenses in bringing his complaint. He also ordered similar provision for each household where a profoundly deaf person who is not eligible for the Commonwealth's means-tested TTY scheme is resident.

Telstra lodged an appeal against Sir Ron Wilson's decision with the Federal Court but later withdrew the appeal. Telstra announced that from March 1, 1996, vouchers would be issued for TTYs as ordered by the Commission. Telstra thanked all parties for their involvement in this matter and advised its intention to work in future with disability representatives to implement the Commission's decision.