Activities people need help with

1 in 3

(30%) people with disability living in households need help with health care.

1 in 4

(27%) people with disability living in households need help with property maintenance.

1 in 2

(48%) people with disability aged 5 and over living in households have a schooling or employment restriction.

People with disability may need assistance to participate in social and economic life. Knowing what these activities are can help with planning services and building inclusive communities. 

Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

Data in this section are largely sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). The SDAC is the most detailed and comprehensive source of disability prevalence in Australia.

The SDAC considers that a person has disability if they have at least 1 of a list of limitations, restrictions or impairments, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least 6 months and restricts everyday activities.

The limitations are grouped into 10 activities associated with daily living—self-care, mobility, communication, cognitive or emotional tasks, health care, reading or writing tasks, transport, household chores, property maintenance, and meal preparation. The SDAC also identifies 2 other life areas in which people may experience restriction or difficulty as a result of disability—schooling and employment.

The severity of disability is defined by if a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with 3 core activities—self-care, mobility, and communication—and is grouped for mild, moderate, severe, and profound limitation. People who ‘always’ or ‘sometimes’ need help with 1 or more core activities are referred to in this section as ‘people with severe or profound disability’.

Three in 5 (60%) people with disability living in households need help with at least 1 of 10 activities of daily living (ABS 2019a). The most common are health care, property maintenance and household chores (Table ACTIVITIES.1).

Type of accommodation

The SDAC collects for people living in households and in cared accommodation.

Households

In the SDAC, households refer to private dwellings including self-cared accommodation for the retired or aged, and other private dwellings, including houses, flats, home units, garages, tents and other structures used as private places of residence.

Cared accommodation

Cared accommodation is usually long term and may be institutional in style. In the SDAC, cared accommodation includes hospitals, residential aged care, cared components of retirement villages, aged care hostels, psychiatric institutions, and other homes (such as group homes for people with disability). To be included the person must have been, or is expected to be, a resident of the cared accommodation for 3 months or more. The accommodation must include all meals for its occupants and provide 24-hour access to assistance for personal and/or medical needs (ABS 2019a).

The majority of people with disability live in households:

  • 99% (or 2.4 million) aged 0–64 live in households and the remaining 0.6% (or 13,500) live in cared accommodation
  • 91% (or 1.8 million) aged 65 and over live in households and the remaining 9.0% (or 174,000) live in cared accommodation (ABS 2019b).
Table ACTIVITIES.1: Type of activity people with disability living in households need help with, 2018 (%)

Type of activity

All with disability

Who need help with at least 1 activity

Health care

29.9

50.0

Property maintenance

27.1

45.3

Household chores

23.4

39.1

Mobility

23.0

38.5

Transport

21.1

35.4

Cognitive or emotional tasks

23.7

39.7

Self-care

15.2

25.4

Reading or writing tasks

9.5

15.8

Meal preparation

8.8

14.8

Communication

7.3

12.2

Source: ABS 2019a; 2019b.

People with disability living in cared accommodation (such as in residential aged care or hospital) usually have a higher need for assistance than those living in households. An estimated 91% of people with severe or profound disability living in cared accommodation, for example, always need help with at least 1 core activity (self-care, mobility or communication), compared with 48% of people with severe or profound disability living in households (ABS 2019b). See Type of housing for more information on people living in cared accommodation versus in households.

The types of support people with disability need vary according to their age, sex and level of disability (figures ACTIVITIES.1 and ACTIVITIES.2).

Figure ACTIVITIES.1: Activities where assistance is needed for people with disability who need help with at least 1 activity, by disability status, type of housing and age group, 2018

Horizontal bar chart showing the proportion of people with disability who need help with at least 1 of 10 activities, including self-care and oral communication. The reader can select to display the chart by age group, by disability status, and by type of housing, including cared accommodation, household, and all living arrangements. The chart shows 75% of people with severe or profound disability under 65 years need help with mobility compared with 87% at 65 years and over.

Figure ACTIVITIES.2: Activities where assistance is needed for people with disability who need help with at least 1 activity, by disability status, type of housing and sex, 2018

Horizontal bar chart showing the proportion of people with disability who need help with at least 1 of 10 activities, including self-care and oral communication. The reader can select to display the chart by sex, by disability status, and by type of housing, including cared accommodation, household, and all living arrangements. The chart shows 75% of males with severe or profound disability need help with mobility compared with 86% of females.

People with disability may also have restrictions that specifically make it difficult to participate in schooling or employment. For example, of people with disability living in households, an estimated:

  • 1 in 2 (48%) aged 5 and over have a schooling or employment restriction
  • 4 in 5 (80%) aged 5–18 who attend school have specific restrictions related to their schooling
  • 1 in 2 (47%) aged 15–64 studying for a non-school qualification have specific restrictions related to education
  • 2 in 3 (68%) aged 15–64 have specific restrictions related to employment (ABS 2019b).

What is an employment or schooling restriction?

Having a schooling or employment restriction means the person with disability experiences some level of difficulty, requires the assistance of another person, or needs aids or special equipment to participate in education or employment.

See ABS SDAC and Education and Employment for more information on people with schooling and employment restrictions.