Disability Defined

Whilst the American Disability Act defines a disability as a person “with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities[1], the Australian Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) defines disability more comprehensively.

‘Disability’, under the Australian DDA in relation to a person, means:

  • total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions; or
  • total or partial loss of a part of the body; or
  • the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or
  • the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or
  • the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body; or
  • a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or
  • 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; or previously existed but no longer exists; or may exist in the future; or is imputed to a person.

In preparing this Guide the definition of impairment provided by the Australian Emergency Management Institute is considered, which states an impairment is:

An illness, injury or congenital condition that causes, or is likely to cause, a long-term effect on physical appearance and/or limitation of function within the individual that differs from the commonplace. Some people may have more than one impairment.[2]

[1] United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act, p.1, http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/fs-ada.pdf, viewed 26 August 2015

[2] Australian Emergency Management Institute 2013, Communicating with People with Disability: National Guidelines for Emergency Managers Handbook 5, http://www.ag.gov.au/EmergencyManagement/Tools-and-resources/Publications/Documents/Handbook-series/handbook-5-communicating-with-people-with-disability.pdf, viewed 27 August 2015

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