What is Disability?
A disability is any condition that restricts a person’s mental, sensory or mobility functions. It may be caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease. A disability may be temporary or permanent, total or partial, lifelong or acquired, visible or invisible.
See our page What is disability for more information.
- Over 4.4 million people in Australia have some form of disability. That’s 1 in 5 people.
- 17.8% of females and 17.6% of males in Australia have disability.
- The likelihood of living with disability increases with age. 2 in 5 people with disability are 65 years or older.
- Of all people with disability, 1.9 million are aged 65 and over, representing almost half (44.5%) of all people with disability. This reflects both an ageing population and increasing life expectancy of Australians.
- 2.1 million Australians of working age (15-64 years) have disability.
- 35.9% of Australia’s 8.9 million households include a person with disability. 
Types of Disability
- Only 4.4% of people with a disability in Australia use a wheelchair. 
- 1 in 6 Australians are affected by hearing loss. There are approximately 30,000 Deaf Auslan users with total hearing loss .
- Vision Australia estimates there are currently 357,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision. They project that the number of Australians who are blind or have low vision will grow to 564,000 by 2030. (Refractive error not included). 
- 45% of Australians aged 16–85 years, experience a mental health condition during their lifetime. 
- 3 million Australians live with depression or anxiety. 
- Research shows job or financial loss can increase a person’s risk of health problems, such as depression and anxiety. 
- Over three-quarters (76.8%) of people with disability reported a physical disorder as their main condition. The most common physical disorder was musculoskeletal disorder (29.6%) including arthritis and related disorders (12.7%) and back problems (12.6%).
Employment of People with Disability
- People aged between 15 and 64 years with disability have both lower labour force participation (53.4%) and higher unemployment rates (10.3%) than people without disability (84.1% and 4.6% respectively).
- There are 2.1 million Australians of working age with disability. Of these, just under half were employed (47.8%), compared with 80.3% of people without disability.
- Australia’s employment rate for people with disability (46.6% in 2015) is on par with developed countries. In developing countries, 80% to 90% of people with disability of working age are unemployed, whereas in industrialised countries the figure is between 50% and 70%. 
- 34% of people with disability are managers & professionals. 
- Graduates with disability take 61.5% longer to gain fulltime employment than other graduates. 
- Almost one in five (18.9%) people with disability aged 15-24 years experienced discrimination. In almost half of those instances, the source of discrimination is an employer.
- Global research has found that when employee health and wellness is managed well the percentage of engaged employees increases from 7% to 55%. 
- 73 percent of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged, compared to just 23 percent of those who don’t. 
- A higher proportion of people with a profound or severe disability were working full time in 2018, 11.4% compared with 7.9% in 2015. This is driven by an increase in women with a profound or severe disability working full time (9.2% in 2018, up from 5.5% in 2015).
Customers with disability
- People with disability are three times as likely to avoid an organisation and twice as likely to dissuade others because of an organisation’s negative diversity reputation. 
- 36% of people with disability are often treated less favourably than customers without disability. 
- 28% of people with disability have experienced discrimination by one or more of the organisations they’ve recently interacted with. 
- 1 in 3 people with disability report that their customer needs are often unmet .
- 62% of SME’s have not done anything in the past 12 months to make it easier for customers with disability. For almost half of these, there is a perception of not being asked to. “We have received no specific requests.” 
- Of the Australians with disability aged 15 and over, almost one-third (33.1%) avoided situations because of their disability. One of the most common situations avoided were going to shops, banks etc. (34.3%)
Other disability statistics
- The likelihood of living with disability increases with age; one quarter (26.9%) of people aged 60-64 years are living with disability. Over eight in ten people aged 90 and over (84.6%) have a disability.
- Disability discrimination accounts for the highest volume of complaints across the board to the Australian Human Rights Commission. 
- Projections for 2050 indicate that one in every four Australians will have hearing loss. 90% of people born with hearing impairment are born into hearing families. 
- 17.1% of people with disability use mobility aids.
Except where stated otherwise, data is taken from Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019, 4430.0 – Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia 2018, viewed 15 November 2019.