holds card with text unable on old wood plank


Initial findings from the first Supplementary Disability Survey have been released. It showed that walking or climbing stairs presented as either ‘a lot of difficulty’ or ‘cannot do at all’ for the highest number of respondents in people aged over 18 years with disability. It was followed by those reporting ‘a lot of difficulty’ or ‘cannot do at all’ when it comes to remembering or concentrating. This group represents those who are at greater risk than the general population of experiencing restrictions or limitations in social and economic participation. This restriction or limitation may or may not have been alleviated by the use of assistive devices or by living in a supportive environment.

The SDS questions focused on health-related difficulties in six domains: seeing, hearing, walking, cognition, self-care and communication. It collected details of levels of difficulty respondents have from – no difficulty, some difficulty, to a lot of difficulty or cannot do at all. In 2016, 6.7 per cent of Australian adults reported considerable difficulty with at least one of the six activity domains. Using the SDS measure, the following people are considered to have disability:

  • 9 per cent of males
  • 3 per cent of females
  • 7 per cent of those aged 25-34 years
  • 5 per cent of those aged 85 years and over
  • 3 per cent of those living in capital cities
  • 5 per cent of those living outside capital cities

The SDS was conducted for the first time in 2016 using a sub-sample of respondents from the 2015 Survey of Disability, ageing and Carers (SDAC). This was a voluntary survey that collected information about Australians five years and over living in households. It provided information about different levels of difficulty with basic activity functioning.

The results are not intended to replace existing measures of disability in Australia which are significantly more comprehensive. The survey used an internationally endorsed set of disability questions designed to provide a measure of disability that is consistent and comparable across countries.

Further investigations are taking place to identify the similarities and differences in the people with disability in the 2016 SDS and 2015 SDAC collections. This work will be released in early 2017.