What is a disability?

The definition of disability is very broad and includes physical, psychological, sensory, intellectual disabilities and medical conditions.

A disability might be something that affects or limits your movements, your senses, your communication abilities, or your learning abilities. It may or may not be visible, and it may be permanent or temporary. It may be something you were born with, or it may have appeared later in life or resulted from something that’s happened to you. Some people have more than one disability.

View the definition from the Disability Discrimination Act 1992

The Australian Government’s Disability Discrimination Act 1992 defines disability as:

  • Total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions
  • Total or partial loss of a part of the body
  • The presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness
  • The presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness
  • The malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body
  • A disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction
  • A disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in disturbed behaviour.

It also includes a disability that:

  • Presently exists
  • Previously existed but no longer exists
  • May exist in the future
  • Is imputed to a person.

Common disabilities and medical conditions seen at university are:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, bipolar affective disorder and schizophrenia
  • Specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia
  • Medical problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome, epilepsy and diabetes
  • Temporary disabilities such as fractures and injuries
  • Vision and hearing impairments.

If you have a diagnosed disability, we may be able to help you with your study needs, accessibility, and general support.