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About Disability

Learn more about disability and the Disability Discrimination Act and how it affects you.  You can also learn about how to communicate with a person with a disability, plus find website links on a range of disabilities.

What is Disability?

A disability can be any physical, sensory, intellectual, cognitive or psychiatric impairment that affects a person’s ability to undertake everyday activities.  A disability can occur at any time in life.

People can be born with a disability or acquire a disability through an accident or illness. Some forms of disability are temporary; others are episodic which means that they are better on some days and worse on others.  Some disabilities may be obvious to other people, while other disabilities are ‘hidden’. 

Source: Department of Health and Human Services

People with disabilities may include:

  • People who are blind or have low vision
  • People with a learning or an intellectual disability
  • People who are Deaf or hard of hearing
  • People with a physical disability or limited mobility
  • People with long-term illnesses
  • People with a mental health or a psychological condition
  • People with an acquired brain injury (ABI)

More information about ‘what is Disability’ can be found by visiting the Australian Network on Disability website -  

Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

The Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. It encourages everyone to be involved in implementing the Act and to share in the overall benefits to the community and the economy that flow from participation by the widest range of people.

Disability discrimination happens when people with a disability are treated less fairly than people without a disability. Disability discrimination also occurs when people are treated less fairly because they are relatives, friends, carers, co-workers or associates of a person with a disability.

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Useful resources

Face the facts: Disability Rights
Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014

Twenty Years, Twenty Stories: Celebrating 20 years of the Disability Discrimination Act
Australian Human Rights Commission, 2013

Know Your Rights: Disability discrimination
Australian Human Rights Commission, 2012

Communicating with People with Disability

Inclusive Language

The Australian Network on Disability recognises that it can be difficult to keep up with what is the acceptable terminology in relation to disability, so they have put together a few hints to help you.  Check out their webpage on Inclusive Language -

Talking Disability

The ‘Talking Disability’ booklet has been developed to show that how we speak and interact with people can be either positive and enhancing, or negative and damaging.

Talking about disability is often difficult, partly because the appropriate terminology is unclear and often laden with negative connotations.

Designed as a practical guide to assist organisations, community members and businesses in communicating positively with people with a disability, the booklet affirms the importance of the individual over their limitation.

'It's important to look past the disability and treat me as a real person'

A way with words

Guidelines for the portrayal of people with a disability - Queensland Government: Disability Services Queensland

The guidelines presented in A Way With Words are designed to raise awareness of language based issues specific to the portrayal of people with a disability.   They also assist in the development of positive and appropriate communications with and regarding the disability sector.

Click here to download 'A way with words'

The disability language A-Z guide

Click here to download 'Don’t dis me with that language — The disability language A – Z guide'

From the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care and Link Disability Magazine (

Communicating effectively with people with disability

 Click here to go to the Australian Sports Commission's website which has a useful factsheet on how to communicate effectively with people with disability.  This factsheet has been designed for sporting clubs.