Glossary

DISABILITY GLOSSARY

TERM
DEFINITION
Aquired Brain Injury (ABI)
Aquired Brain Injury (ABI) refers to damage to the brain that has occurred as a result of disease or injury such as a road accident. This term is often used when damage has occurred following a period of otherwise normal development. A person with an acquired brain injury may experience minor temporary problems to severe, long-term changes in some bodily or mental functions.
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Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorders are a lifelong disabilities affecting 1 percent of Australians. People with Autism (80 percent of whom are male) typically display significant impairments in the areas of social interaction, communication and behaviour (limited interests and repetitive behaviours).
Many people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder also have under or oversensitivity to sound, sight, taste, touch, smell, temperature and/or pain. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder may feel anxiety, confusion or frustration in dealing with the challenges of everyday life.
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Deaf and Hearing Impairment
People with a hearing loss can be considered as two groups: ‘Deaf’ with a capital ‘D’ refers to people who and have been without hearing, who use Auslan and who identify with the Deaf community and culture. 'Deaf’', ‘hearing impaired’, or ‘hard of hearing’ people are those who, (after acquiring speech),experience various degrees of hearing loss from the effects of ageing, industrial accidents or exposure to excessive noise. They do not necessarily see themselves as part of a separate culture or community.
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Disability
There are many definitions of disability used in Australia and throughout the world. The definition below comes from the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Under the Act, in relation to a person, disability is defined as:
- 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
- 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 judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour; and 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.
The word 'disability' is often misunderstood and stigmatised, which is also often based on lack of understanding and knowledge. It is important to note that disability does not just refer to extremes, such as loss of both legs, but is a continuum. In fact, many of us have or will have some disability in our life - be that impaired hearing, joint damage or back problems, reading glasses, a stroke or having some physical or mental limitations.
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Epilepsy
Epilepsy occurs in 1–2 per cent of the population. The few known causes of epilepsy include birth trauma, head injury, brain infection, lack of oxygen to the brain such as a near-drowning.

A seizure is a sudden increase in the electro- chemical activity in the brain.There are three main types of seizures: a)Tonic clonic—where the person falls, becomes stiff, jerks and is unresponsive b) Absence seizure—where the person will have brief periods of looking blank, staring and is unresponsive (often confused with daydreaming) c) Complex partial seizure—where the person loses awareness but not consciousness; they are unaware of what they are doing and may carry out tasks such as walking, lip smacking or picking at their clothes.

Intellectual Disability
Approximately 3 per cent of the Australian population have an intellectual disability and may require support with daily living activities. A person with an intellectual disability may need support with: adaptive skills such as following and understanding directions; understanding abstract concepts; learning new information and understanding complex instructions; expressing and understanding language and understanding written language; and daily living tasks.

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Learning Disability
People with a learning disability generally have average or above average intelligence and the ability to learn, despite having difficulties in processing information. Learning disability is specific to the individual and can affect the way a person takes in, remembers, understands, and expresses information. People with learning disabilities can achieve more when individualised self-management skills and strategies are developed and relevant adjustments are provided.The incidence of people with a learning disability in Australia, as in other Western countries is approximately 10 to 12 per cent of the population, with 4 per cent being severely affected.
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Medical Conditions
A medical condition is a temporary or permanent condition that may be hereditary, genetically acquired or of unknown origin. The condition may not be obvious or readily identifiable to others, yet may be mildly or severely debilitating and may result in fluctuating levels of general health and sicknes and/ or periods of hospitalisation. Examples of medical conditions include, but are not limited to: HIV/ AIDS, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, asthma, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

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Mental Illness or Disorder
A mental illness/disorder is a diagnosable illness that significantly interferes with a person’s social abilities. Mental illness and associated disorders are of different types and degrees of severity and include depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorders and psychosis.
Anxiety disorders are characterised byextreme anxiety. Mood disorders are characterised by severe swings in mood. Psychotic disorders are characterised by hallucinations, delusions and sometimes paranoia. Personality and disruptive disorders are characterised by significant impairment in social, educational or occupational functioning.
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Physical Disability
A physical disability is one that affects a person’s mobility and/ or dexterity. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that at least 6% of Australians over the age of five have a physical disability.Physical disabilities can be permanent, intermittent or temporary. Physical disabilities can be caused by: congenital factors; trauma/ accident; infection; degenerative disease; or chronic medical conditions.
Physical disabilities vary from person to person and may include problems with balance, gait, co-ordination; dizziness, weakness, pain and paralysis. Aids such as crutches, a walking stick or a wheelchair may be used. Sometimes people with physical disabilities may have involuntary movement of the muscles. Some conditions may go into remission, others may come and go with no particular pattern or there may be gradual deterioration.

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Blindness or Vision Impairment
A person is considered legally blind if they are unable to identify less than 6/60 distance vision or a restriction of this visual field to 10 degrees of arc.This means that what people can usually see at 60 metres a person with a vision impairment can only see at 6 metres.Vision impairment varies from person to person and may range from blurred vision, reduced depth and distance perception, sensitivity toglare, tunnel vision to poor night vision. Vision impairment may impact on a person at birth, deteriorate overtime or occur suddenly as a result of an accident, hereditary condition,diabetes, glaucoma, stroke, eye infections or congenital conditions. It is estimated that less than 5 percent of people with a vision impairment are legally blind.

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Reasonable Adjustment
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992. states that whenever it is necessary, possible and reasonable, employers should take into account a person's disability and make appropriate modifications to the work environment or to the way a job can be performed to accommodate such a person. Where a person with a disability can perform the inherent requirements of the job with some alterations or adjustments, the employer should make reasonable adjustments which may include one or more of the following types of adjustment in relation to:
- workplace or work related premises, equipment or facilities, including provision of additional or assistive equipment or facilities;
- work related communication or information provision, including the form or format in which information is required;
- work arrangements, including hours of work and use of leave entitlements;
- training, transfer, higher duties, or other forms of opportunity to demonstrate or develop capacity in a position
It is important to remember that most people with a disability will not require significant adjustments. Some people will not require any adjustments. Employers should not assume that all people with a disability (or all carers or other associates of people with a disability) will require adjustments and then use this as the basis for discriminatory decisions.
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