A profile of people who benefit from better access and inclusion in Brisbane

Table of contents

1. Pedestrian mobility and transport

1.1 Walking, wheeling and driving safely around Brisbane

1.2 Catching public transport

2. Planning, development and infrastructure

2.1 Being actively engaged in planning an accessible city

2.2 Enjoying a well-designed built environment

2.3 Appreciating the benefits of civic infrastructure

3. Public buildings, venues and outdoor spaces

3.1 Public buildings that make you feel welcome

3.2 People friendly public spaces

3.3 Local meeting places where you can connect with your community

3.4 Parks and natural areas where you enjoy the great outdoors

4.Vibrant, informed and caring communities

4.1 Experiencing the support of inclusive, safe and diverse communities

4.2 Enjoying Brisbane's vibrant arts and culture scene

4.3 Staying active and healthy

4.4 Using libraries for lifelong learning

4.5 Adopting a more sustainable lifestyle

5. Your Council, working with you

5.1 Being an active citizen in an inclusive democracy

5.2 Having a say on the work we do that matters to you

5.3 Communicating and doing business with us

5.4 Understanding how local laws, rules and procedures relate to you

5.5 Keeping Brisbane clean, recycling waste and breathing clean air

5.6 Working in a disability confident organisation

5.7 Knowing your rates are paying for accessible services

Council recognises that better access and inclusion will benefit all Brisbane residents and visitors and, in particular, people with a disability, people with chronic illness, people experiencing temporary impairment, seniors, parents with young children and associated family, friends and carers.

This plan uses the definition provided in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 where disability refers to all kinds of impairment from birth or acquired through illness, accident or ageing. It includes cognitive, physical, sensory and developmental disabilities, neurodiversity, mental illness and chronic illness such as arthritis or diabetes. This plan embraces the World Health Organisation understanding that 'disability is a complex phenomenon reflecting an interaction between features of a person's body and features of the society in which he or she lives'.[3]

'Carer' in this context refers to all those who provide care, support and assistance to a person with a disability as a family member, friend, support worker, neighbour or work colleague.[4]

People with a disability

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), approximately 4 million people (18.5% of the population) reported having a disability in 2009. The incidence fell 1.5% from 20% in 2003. ABS defines disability as 'any limitation, restriction or impairment that restricts everyday activities and has lasted or is likely to last for at least six months'.

Of those Australians with a reported disability, 87% (or 15% of the total population) had an impairment restricting their ability to perform communication, mobility or self-care activities, or a restriction associated with schooling or employment:

  • 2.9% of the total population experienced a profound limitation (635,000 Australians)
  • 2.9% experienced a severe limitation (635,000)
  • 3% experienced a moderate limitation (660,000)
  • 5.6% experienced a mild limitation (1.2 million) [5]

The following estimates summarise the prevalence of different forms of disability in the Australian population:

  • about 14% of Australians (over 3 million people) have some form of physical disability[6]
  • about 5% have a significant hearing loss and approximately 30,000 are totally deaf
  • nearly 2% have substantial vision loss and around 20,000 are totally blind
  • about 2% have an intellectual disability
  • about 1.5% have a major form of mental illness
  • one in five adults has, or will develop, some form of mental illness[7]
  • nearly one in five Australians (3.9 million) live with arthritis, a debilitating condition for some individuals[8]

All of us as we grow older

Many of us will experience some form of a disabling condition as we grow older. As shown in this graph, in 2009, 40% of 65-69 year olds reported at least one type of disability and the rate increased rapidly every five years, reaching more than 75% among people aged 85 and older.[9]

Experience of disability by age


Figure 2: Experience of disability by age (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006)

This bar graph shows the experience of disability by age using 2006 ABS data, which demonstrates that the incidence of disability increases steadily as we grow older. Example: incidence for 5-14 year olds was just under 10%; 13% for 35-44 year olds; 28% for 55-59 year olds; 48% for 70-74 year olds; 65% for 80-84 year olds; and nearly 90% for people aged 90 and over.

Another way to think about the link between disability and ageing is to look at how many years an average person can expect to live with a disability in her or his life. A 2003 study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that:

  • men could expect to live an average of 18.6 years with some form of disability, 5.4 of which would be lived with a severe or profound core activity limitation
  • women could expect to live an average of 20.7 years with a disability, including 8.3 with a severe or profound limitation.[10]

People living in all parts of Brisbane

With a population of 1,067,279, Brisbane in 2011 has approximately 210,000 residents with a disability.

In the 2006 Census, 3.5% of Brisbane's residents reported having a disability that required assistance with core activities. This was below the national rate of 4.1%. However, 27% of suburbs had a higher concentration of people who needed assistance than across Australia as a whole and 41% of suburbs had a higher concentration of people who needed assistance than Brisbane as a whole.

The below map (based on 2006 ABS data) identifies Brisbane suburbs with high concentrations of people who require assistance with core activities, with the suburbs marked in red highlighting suburbs with the highest concentration. Awareness of these areas is important for planning and delivery of local government services.

There is also a strong correlation between socio-economic status and severe disability in capital cities in Australia, with higher levels of disability in communities where residents have fewer economic resources.[11]


Figure 3: Map of Brisbane suburbs with a high concentration of people with a disability requiring assistance with core activities (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006).

This map of Brisbane shows suburbs with high concentrations of people with a disability who require assistance with core activities. The top ten suburbs shown on the map are: Chermside 6.9%; Rocklea 6.7%; Brighton 6.6%; Carina Heights 6.5%; Kenmore Hills 6.4%; Wynnum West 6.4%; Taigum-Fitzgibbon 6.3%; Nudgee 6.3%; Inala 6% and Wooloowin 6%. In addition to these suburbs, the map also shows areas that have a higher concentration of people who require assistance than the Australian average of 4.1% (in one shade of colour) and higher concentrations than the Brisbane average of 3.5% (in another shade of colour).

Family, friends and carers

A recent national report [12] on the experience of people with a disability and their families in Australia heard from hundreds of people “just like all other Australian citizens, individuals with their own needs, abilities, ambitions and priorities”.

It concluded:

“Many Australians with disabilities, along with their families, friends and carers, are still experiencing systemic disadvantage. … Many said they face a constant struggle to obtain what the rest of the community would consider to be an ordinary life. They do not want special treatment – they just want the barriers removed so they can get on with living.”

In the 2006 Census, 72,000 Brisbane residents (9.2% of the population) reported that in the last two weeks they had spent time providing unpaid care, help or assistance to family members or others because of a disability, a long-term illness or problems related to old age. [13]

Disability affects 3.4% of pre-schoolers and 8.8% of children and impacts on their families as they navigate key times of transition through life stages such as schooling, entering the workforce, living independently, starting a family, career transitions, retirement and frail age.

All of these transitions have their own particular challenges depending on the nature of the person's disability and their family circumstances. Family, friends and carers have key roles in supporting people through these transitions. At different stages they will look to government for support and are likely to experience the frustration of having to understand the different roles and responsibilities of Local, State and Federal governments. One of the purposes of this plan is to make the local government role clearer for people navigating the complexities of these life choices.

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Last updated:30 April 2019