Unpacking concepts like disability, impairments and barriers can help shape our attitudes to value and respect people with disabilities and their families.

The social and human-rights based model distinguishes between the concept of disability and that of impairment. This model understands disability within a social context.

An impairment is a long-term condition that affects a person’s functioning – their physical, sensory, psychosocial or intellectual functioning. It is an ongoing condition.

Impairments can be:

  • Physical
    • Difficulty in the performance of body functions, such as walking, moving one’s arms and legs, using one’s hands, a spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, amputation, etc.
  • Sensory
    • Difficulty in seeing, hearing or communicating and includes people who are hard of hearing or have low vision.
  • Psychosocial
    • Chronic severe mental disorders or psycho-social distress, such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.
  • Intellectual
    • Difficulty with language, reasoning, memory and personal.

Over 4.4 million Australians – one in five people – have some sort of impairment. One in six are affected by hearing loss, with over 350,000 who are blind or have low vision. Mental health issues affect 45% of adults and three million live with depression or anxiety.

Impairments are long-term conditions, but social contexts change, and can be changed. By removing barriers, we can reduce a person’s experience of exclusion and disability. In doing so we can create inclusive and welcoming Christian communities for all.