Introduction to the Austrian Federal Disability Equality Act (Bundes-Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz - BGStG).
The BGStG came into force on 1 January 2006 with the goal of removing or preventing discrimination and thus guaranteeing the equal participation in social life for persons with disabilities and enabling them to lead a self-determined life. The ban on discrimination also covers people with a close relationship to a disabled person such as parents, friends, teachers or personal assistants. The act applies to access to all publicly available goods and services (e.g. supermarkets, public transport and doctor's practices) as well as to buildings within the sphere of responsibility of the federal administration (e.g. federal buildings which are open to the public).
A person who feels discriminated against because of a disability or because of the close relationship to a disabled person may not claim the removal of a barrier, but is entitled to claim compensation. Before such an action can be brought, the claimant is obliged to first apply for the opening of conciliation proceedings. The conciliation procedure is conducted by the Federal Social Welfare Office, which also bears the costs of the procedure. All deadlines regarding the legal assertion of the compensation claim are delayed by the opening of the conciliation procedure. The goal of the conciliation procedure is to reach an amicable agreement within three months. If required, the parties can be supported by an external mediator. If no agreement can be reached, the Federal Social Welfare Office has to confirm the failure of the conciliation procedure and the claimant can bring an action before the court within three months.
In some areas, such as traffic and construction, the realisation of accessibility, for example by installing an elevator, is usually very complex and causes very high costs. Therefore, during a 10 year transitional period, the BGStG contained a number of exceptions regarding buildings and traffic facilities, which were built based on a building permit issued before 1 January 2006, and means of public transport, which were authorized before 1 January 2006.
In the past ten years, there have only been a few trials dealing with accessibility for people with disabilities. The end of the transitional period on 31 December 2015 has certainly enhanced the practical relevance of the Federal Disability Equality Act.