What is the definition of disability?

AccessAbility Services What is the definition of disability?

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Legislation and Students with a Disability




Under the Disability D iscrimination Act 1992 the definition of disability is:

  • a total or partial loss of a person's bodily or mental functions (e.g. Paraplegia, Epilepsy)

  • total or partial loss of a part of the body (e.g. amputation)

  • presence in the body of organisms causing illness or disease (e.g. AIDS or Hepatitis)

  • presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease (e.g. being HIV positive, although not having AIDS)

  • the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of a person's body (e.g. a vision impairment)

  • a disorder or malfunction that results in a person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction (e.g. Dyslexia)

  • a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour (e.g. Alzheimer's disease or psychiatric conditions)

This broad definition is meant to ensure that everyone with a disability is protected.


The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) covers a disability which people:

  • Have now

  • Had in the past (e.g. a past episode of depression)

  • May have in the future (e.g. a family history of a disability which a person may also develop)

  • Are believed to have


The DDA also covers people with a disability who may be discriminated against because they use assistive aids such as a wheelchair, a guide dog, audio equipment, a carer, interpreter or scribe.


Please also refer to Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1991




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