New guide aims to improve information on people with disabilities

The new International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) opens the door for improved information on people with disabilities and related difficulties in everyday life.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare today released the new Australian ICF User Guide to promote its use in Australia.

Professor Trevor Parmenter, Director of the Centre for Developmental Disability Studies at the University of Sydney, and chair of the AIHW disability data advisory group, said the ICF and the Australian guide could change the way disability was reported on in public policy arenas.

'The classification recognises that participation in society, and the role that environmental factors play in disability, are important.'

Contributor to the User Guide, and another member of ACAIDD, PriceWaterhouseCoopers' John Walsh, said that the new classification could provide much needed improvements in the field of accident compensation.

'The current process of assessment and compensation is arbitrary, unstructured, litigious and focused on monetary compensation rather than helping to recover function.'

The ICF is already being used in the development of a new system of classification for disability athletics, and this application is also documented in the Australian guide.

Research Fellow in Physical Activity and Disability at the University of Queensland, Sean Tweedy, said that in disability athletics, classification is used to provide an equitable starting point for competition by placing athletes into classes according to how much their disability affects their sporting performance.

'The current disability athletics system is based on outdated concepts, and the development of the new ICF-based system will help address this problem.'

'The project has the approval of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and, if adopted, has the potential to foster participation among people with disabilities-so that Paralympic competition is as fair and equitable as possible.'

Head of the AIHW's Functioning and Disability Unit, Ros Madden, said there was potential for gains in data and policies in a wide range of disciplines. These include disability advocates; health and allied health educators; practitioners and researchers in the fields of rehabilitation, human movement, social security or employment; and people designing surveys, clinical studies or assessment methods.

AIHW is a Collaborating Centre for the WHO family of international classifications, and contributed to ICF development during the 1990s. A number of other Collaborating Centres have sought permission to translate and adapt the Australian User Guide for use in other countries.

10 October 2003


Further information: Trevor Parmenter, University of Sydney, tel. 02 8878 0500
John Walsh, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, tel. 02 8266 3205
Sean Tweedy, University of Queensland, tel. 07 3365 6638
Samantha Bricknell, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1138
Ros Madden, AIHW, tel. 0409 767 266
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032