Disability definition

The academic definition of disability. This is currently a prototype and will change over time.


Disabled people are people who have long-term physical, cognitive, intellectual, neurological, or sensory impairments including neurodiverse conditions such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Impairments do not need to be formally diagnosed for someone to be disabled. ​

Disabled people and their champions refers to disabled people and their family, whānau, hapu, iwi, carers, and community. We take a collective view of the impact disabling barriers have, recognising that although individuals have impairments, they are part of a whānau or a family, and part of an iwi and/or a community. We recognise the role of all whānau, family, caregivers, iwi, and community members to support each other as time and circumstances change.  ​

A social and rights-based model should also be used when working with people experiencing mental health and addiction. We acknowledge that there are different views within disability and mental health communities about where mental health sits within a definition of disability. This definition is a prototype so it can evolve alongside communities thinking.

Published: December 21, 2023