Factsheet

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What are disabilities?

(Source: World Health Organisation (WHO))

Impairment:
"Loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function".
Disability:
"Any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being".
Handicap:
"A disadvantage for a given individual resulting from an impairment or disAbility that limits or prevents the fulfillment of a role that is normal (depending on age, sex, social and cultural factors) for that individual".
Condition:
Refers to the medical description of a specific abnormality of psychological, physiological function and/or anatomical structure. (This definition is commonly used as an alternative to the WHO definition of impairment).

Facts and Statistics

  • In 1998, it was estimated that 3.6 million people or 19% of the Australian population had a disability. This is an increase from 15% in 1981.
  • It was estimated that 2.3 million people were aged 65 years or more. Of these, 54% had a disability and 82% had profound core activity restriction (they required assistance with self-care, mobility or communication).
  • 393,500 people in Australia experience sensory impairment involving their eyes and/or ears.
  • 39,600 people are living with difficulties following head injury/brain damage.
  • Respiratory diseases, including asthma, affect 259,700 people in Australia.
  • 15% of people with a disability identify a mental or behavioural disorder as their main condition.
  • 447,900 people are primary carers (those who provide the most care for people with a disability, in the areas of self-care, mobility or verbal communication) representing 3.1% of the Australian population aged 15 years or more.

Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings Australia, 1998 (ABS) (Catalogue # 4430.0)