This general information is provided as a guide for young people, parents and caregivers, service professsionals and schools. If you find incorrect information please contact us to have the relevant page updated.


What is a disability?

A disability is any continuing condition that restricts everyday activities. The Disability Services Act (1993) defines disability as a condition that:

  • Is attributable to an intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments.
  • Is permanent.
  • May or may not be episodic in nature.

Disabilities can result in a person having a substantially reduced capacity for communication, social interaction, learning or mobility and a need for continuing support services in daily life. Some disabilities, such as epilepsy, are hidden while others, such as cerebral palsy, may be visible.

With the assistance of appropriate aids and services, the restrictions experienced by many people with a disability may be overcome.

Types of disabilities

There are many different types of disability. A disability can be caused by a genetic condition, an illness or an accident, and includes:

  • Intellectual disability.
  • Physical disability.
  • Sensory disability.
  • Acquired brain injury.
  • Neurological impairment.
  • Dual disability (one of the above and a psychiatric disability).
  • Disabilities that are unrelated to ageing; and
  • Any combination of these.

Communication Tips

When communicating with someone with a disability

  • Look at the person when addressing him or her.
  • Ask the person about the best way to communicate if you are unsure.
  • Speak directly to a person with a disability, even if a person without a disability accompanies him or her.
  • If you know the person’s name, address the person by their name.
  • Offer assistance if it appears necessary, but don’t assume a person with a disability needs or will accept it. Wait for acceptance and instruction before proceeding. Respect people’s wishes.
  • Extend your hand to shake when meeting someone.



  • Have policies and procedures in place for addressing accommodation needs for people with disabilities.
  • Make sure your facility is accessible to people with mobility impairments.
  • Discuss with the young person and their family about how best to meet the needs of the young person.
  • Consider referral to support groups and health professionals including Guidance Officers, Psychologists, Case Management Services and Respite Services.


  • It is really important that the child's disability does not become the entire focus. The child should live in your house rather than you living in their house. Otherwise the family is defined by the disability and the child.
  • There are many support groups and services that are available for the young person with a disability and their family.

Useful Websites