People with disability in Australia

Disability affects many people, directly or indirectly. It may have large or small effects on people’s daily lives. Increasingly, disability is recognised as something that affects most people, to varying degrees and at different life stages.

Like everyone, people with disability interact with every aspect of life in Australia, across a multitude of social policy and program areas (for example, health, social support, education, employment, housing and justice). Some, however, face challenges in routinely and actively participating in these everyday aspects of life.

How people with disability participate in society is influenced by factors such as the level of their disability, the availability of services and the accessibility of their environment, and by community attitudes and discrimination.

While many people with disability participate fully in Australian society, in general, they are more likely than people without disability to have poorer general and mental health, experience violence or abuse, leave school early, and experience unemployment.

What is disability?

Disability is an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions, all of which can interact with a person’s health condition(s) and environmental and/or individual factors to hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

There are varying degrees of disability – from having no impairment or limitation to a complete loss of functioning. It can be associated with genetic disorders, illnesses, accidents, ageing, injuries or a combination of these factors.

What is meant by impairment?

An impairment refers to problems in body function or structure (including mental functions), such as loss of sight, loss of hearing, loss of a limb, impairment of mood or emotion, impairment of speech, and any other lack of function of body organs.

What is meant by activity limitation?

An activity limitation refers to difficulties in executing everyday activities, such as self-care, mobility, communication, cognitive or emotional tasks, health care, reading or writing tasks, transport, household chores, property maintenance or meal preparation. Self-care, mobility and communication are often referred to as core activities. In this report, people who always or sometimes need help with one or more core activities are referred to as people with severe or profound disability.

What is meant by participation restriction?

A participation restriction refers to problems a person may experience in involvement in life situations, such as in education or employment.