The Definition of Disability in Australia: Moving towards National Consistency

A discussion paper The Definition of Disability in Australia: Moving Towards National Consistency, prepared by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, will be launched at the AIHW on Thursday by Dr Bedirhan Ustun, Senior Scientist in the Division of Mental Health & Prevention of Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization. Dr Ustun is coordinating the revision of the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH-2) which involves a number of international collaborating centres. The AIHW is the Australian collaborating centre for ICIDH.

Dr Ustun said he hoped there would be much discussion of the paper, and of the revised draft ICIDH-2 in Australia. He also said he thought that some people may not be aware of how much interest and discussion there is of these issues among the disability community.

One of the paper's authors, Ms Ros Madden, said 'we expect a lot of interest in the paper and hope to receive many comments from those living and working in the field. This will help the Institute to work towards better national data on disability, and to represent Australian views more effectively in the ICIDH revision.'

The paper discusses terminology and data definitions, and seeks views on some ideas for greater national consistency in data collection. Issues for discussion are raised, and comment on these issues sought, via questionnaires enclosed in the report, feedback via the AIHW website, and discussions to be held by the authors.

The paper makes suggestions as to how to progress towards the ultimate aim of greater consistency in data definitions, thereby enabling an improved picture of the need for and provision and use of disability services in Australia.

This is not a search for 'uniform definition'. What is sought is a framework, providing some common language, common reference points and, for statistical purposes, data items which can be related to each other.

One of the conclusions for discussion is that the framework provided by the draft revised WHO ICIDH-2 (International Classification of Impairments, Activities and Participation) appears useful in describing and relating the various administrative definitions of disability and disability services in Australia.


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