Disability A–Z

Filter by: All A-D E-H I-L M-P Q-T U-X Y-Z

Advocacy – Individual

Individual advocacy

Individual advocacy is when a professional advocate, relative, friend or volunteer advocates for a single person, to stop or fix instances of unfair treatment or abuse.

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Advocacy – Self-advocacy


Self-advocacy is when someone with disability speaks up and represents themselves. Community-based groups can offer support and training for self-advocacy.

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Advocacy – Systemic

Systemic advocacy

Systemic advocacy is when groups or individuals are working for long-term social change to make sure legislation, policies and practices support the rights and interests of all people with disability.

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Assistive technology

Assistive technology is any device, system or design you can use to do things that otherwise you couldn’t do. Examples of assistive technology include audio books, hearing aids, automatic door openers, ramps, speech-to-text software, scooters and wheelchairs.


Auslan (Australian sign language) is the sign language of the Australian Deaf community. Auslan’s grammar and vocabulary is quite different to English. Auslan, and other sign languages, use hands, in various handshapes; facial expression; body language and other visual cues to communicate. Auslan is a recognised community language of Australia.

Read more about Auslan »

Autism spectrum disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is thought to be a neurological disorder but is diagnosed through behaviour.
ASD can be diagnosed when a person has disordered social communication and interaction, and restricted and repetitive behaviours. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, cognitive impairment, abnormal sensitivity, hyperactivity and anxiety. Symptoms of ASD appear in early childhood and vary across a wide spectrum. ASD is often severe and lifelong.

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Blindness is a loss of vision that can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Partial blindness or vision impairment means you have very limited vision (30 per cent or less according to the World Health Organisation). Complete blindness means you can’t see anything and do not see light. People who are blind or vision impaired may use assistive technology, such as a white cane or dog guide, to get around safely and independently and do everyday tasks.

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Brain injury

Brain injury refers to any injury to the brain. The effects of a brain injury are different for each person but can cause one, or a combination, of physical, cognitive and behavioural disability.

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Captioning is when audio content of a television show, webcast, film, video, live event, or other production, is converted into text that is displayed on a screen or monitor. Captions can be ‘open’ or ‘closed’. Open captions are always visible and can’t be turned off. Closed captions can be turned on and off by the viewer.

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Carers are people who provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, an alcohol or another drug issue, or who are frail due to their age.

For more information visit: Carers Australia


Deaf (with capital ‘D’) is used to describe those people who use Auslan to communicate, and identify themselves as members of the signing Deaf community. These people may also identify themselves as ‘Culturally Deaf’ as they are more likely to have been born deaf, or became deaf early in life, are pre-lingually deaf (became deaf before they learned to speak) and use sign language as their main or preferred way to communicate.

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deaf (with a lowercase ‘d’) is a general term used to describe people who have a physical condition of hearing loss of varying degrees, no matter which communication mode they use, such as Auslan and lip reading.

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Deafblind is a term that is used when a person has both vision loss and hearing loss. Dual sensory loss or dual sensory impairment are other terms that are used to describe deafblindness.

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines disability as any limitation, restriction or impairment that restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months. There are a number of ‘models’ of disability which have been defined over the last few years. The two most often mentioned are the ‘social’ and the ‘medical’ models of disability.

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Disability Discrimination Act

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) was an act passed by the Parliament of Australia in 1992. It makes discrimination against people with disabilities − in employment, education, publicly available premises, provision of goods and services, accommodation, clubs and associations, and other contexts − illegal. This discrimination includes not making reasonable adjustments for the person.

Read more about Disability Discrimination Act »

Disability Support Pension

The Disability Support Pension (DSP) provides financial support if you have a physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops you from working, or if you are permanently blind.

For more information visit: Blind Citizens Australia and Human Services

Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPO)

Disabled Peoples Organisations or DPOs are representative organisations where people with disability make up a majority of the overall staff, board, and volunteers in all levels of the organisation.

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Discrimination is treating, or suggesting to treat, someone negatively because of a personal characteristic protected by the law. This includes bullying someone because of a protected characteristic. These personal characteristics are things like age, race, disability, physical features and political beliefs.

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Down syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic condition. It is not an illness or a disease. People with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes in their cells instead of 46. They have an extra chromosome 21, which is why Down syndrome is also sometimes known as trisomy 21.

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Early intervention

Early intervention means doing things as early as possible to work on a child’s developmental, health and support needs or to improve functioning and independence for people who get their disability later in life. Early intervention services give specialised support to children and families in the early years (from birth to starting school) or to adults who get their disability as an adult and may need to learn or re-learn ways of doing things. Examples of early intervention include speech therapy for children or orientation and mobility training for people who lose their sight later in life.

Easy English

Easy English helps people who have difficulty reading and understanding English. It is a style of writing that is simple and concise. It focuses on presenting key information, takes out unnecessary detail, and uses a mix of words and images to enhance the message for the reader.

Read more about Easy English »

Hard of hearing

Hard of hearing describes people who have a hearing loss, usually received after they have already learned to speak, and whose communication is usually by speech. This term also covers people who become deafened later in life.


Hearing is a term that members of the deaf community use to describe a group of people who are not deaf or hard of hearing.

Hearing impairment

Hearing disability encompasses deafness, hearing impairment, hearing loss, which can cause severe restrictions in communication, and in the ability to participate in community life.

Inclusive Education

Inclusive education means all children are included in every way.  It involves the full inclusion of all children. No children are segregated.

Supports for inclusion are part of everyday practice. If aides are employed, they circulate around the classroom, or spend time assisting the teacher and making adaptations to materials, rather than being off in a corner with one particular child.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – Article 24: Right to inclusive education

Inclusive Education – Understanding Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities


Intellectual disability

Intellectual disability means a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and to learn and apply new skills. This causes people to have less ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning), and begins before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.

Read more about Intellectual disability »

Invisible disability

Invisible disability, or hidden disabilities, are disabilities that are not obvious. Some examples of invisible disability are people who live with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, mental illness, diabetes and chronic dizziness.

Legally blind

A person is considered legally blind if they can’t see at six metres what someone with regular vision can see at 60 metres, or if their field of vision is less than 20 degrees in diameter.

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Mental illness

Mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people. Some examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviours.

For more information visit: Mental Health Australia or National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum

National Disability Insurance Agency

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) manages the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

For more information visit: NDIS

National Disability Insurance Scheme

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) supports people with a permanent and significant disability, which affects their ability to take part in everyday activities.

For more information visit: NDIS

National Disability Strategy

The National Disability Strategy (NDS) sets out a national policy framework for improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers. It represents a commitment from all levels of government, industry and the community to a unified, national approach to policy and program development.

Read more about National Disability Strategy »

Personal care

Personal care includes activities such as showering, bathing, grooming, dressing, managing medications and other general hygiene tasks.

Physical disability

A physical disability is a physical condition that affects a person’s mobility, physical capacity, stamina, or dexterity. Examples of physical disability include Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Chronic Arthritis, Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Spina Bifida and Spinal Cord Injury.

Read more about Physical disability »

Plain language

Plain language is writing designed to make sure the reader understands as quickly, easily, and completely as possible. Plain language should be easy to read, understand, and use.

Read more about Plain language »

Reasonable adjustment

Reasonable adjustments are changes that employers, educational authorities and goods and services providers need to make so that a person with disability can safely and productively do their job; take part in an education program; access a service or receive a substantial benefit from a service.

Read more about Reasonable adjustment »

Support worker

A disability support worker provides personal, physical and emotional support to people with disability who need help with daily living. They can provide help with showering, dressing and eating, and often organise or assist with outings and other social activities.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is the human rights convention about people with disabilities. It is a list of rights for people with disabilities to improve their access to society, education and employment. Australia is a signatory to the UNCRPD.

For more information visit: Human Rights Commission

Universal design

Universal design is the design and arrangement of an environment, space or building so that all people, no matter their age, size or ability, can access, understand and use it to the greatest extent possible. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it.

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