Understanding disability

The concept of disability is broad and evolving. We base our definition of disability on the:

We define disability as a long-term impairment that when interacting with various external barriers, prevents or limits community participation. 

An impairment can be:

  • physical
  • mental health
  • intellectual
  • cognitive
  • learning
  • communication
  • sensory. 

It can be permanent, episodic, visible or invisible.

Two women gardening together

Social model of disability

This model recognises that barriers in a community or environment can prevent or limit community participation. For example, a flight of stairs with no ramp or lift into a building is disabling, not a person’s need to use a wheelchair. 

Using the social model of disability means Council can strive to better detect, remove and prevent external barriers for people with disability. This model also gives people with disability more autonomy, choice and self-determination. It supports the human rights of people with disability to make their own choices, be seen as individuals, respected for who they are, have equal opportunities, and access and be included in society.

The language we use

Disability is understood in different ways in our community. Factors such as experience, identity and culture can shape peoples’ notions of disability. This means people can have different preferences for how their disability is described. We understand that language and people’s language preferences can change. 

We use ‘person-first’ language in our plan. This language supports a person’s right to be understood without reference to their disability. An example of this language is saying ‘person with disability’. However, we also understand that many people with disability prefer ‘identify-first’ language, as they consider their disability a key part of who they are. An example of this language is saying ‘disabled person’.

We respect people’s right to choose how they are described. When people share their preferences with us, we always try to refer to people in the way they would prefer.