The SALT Foundation

What are the Characteristics of Disability? Understanding Your Disability with NDIS5 min read

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What are Characteristics of Disability? Understanding Your Disability

What is a Disability?

In Australia, the government defines a disability as an ongoing condition that inhibits everyday life and activities. But what are characteristics of disability?

A disability may be physical, sensory, intellectual, psychiatric, neurological, or cognitive.

It can be:

  • Permanent or expected to be permanent,
  • Chronic, meaning it affects you constantly and continually,
  • Episodic.

Overall, a disability means a person needs some support.

Some major effects of a disability are:

  • Reduction in a person’s capacity or ability to be mobile,
  • Inability to move freely and easily,
  • Difficulty communicating,
  • Trouble learning new things,
  • A hampered ability to interact with people.

Physical disabilities are quite common, including disabilities of the respiratory, circulatory, musculoskeletal, and nervous system. 

Having more than one disability is normal too. Some might be less or more visible.

Disabilities can affect anyone, it doesn’t matter what gender, age, or ethnicity you are. Everyone with a disability has a unique experience, and everyone’s experience is valid and valuable. 

You can overcome the effects and restrictions of your disability with the support of others, including your Support Worker, Support Coordinator, family, friends, carers.

How Can the NDIS and Disability Services and Support Help?

The NDIS can allow you to have choice and control over the services and supports you need.

Here at the SALT Foundation, we can provide you with the essential supports you need to live independently and confidently.

Our Support Workers can offer support with your disability, such as if you need to attend appointments, get things off your chest, engage in social groups, go for walks, or receive help with household cleaning.

Just view the Our Services page to see the range of services we can offer you.

Head over to the Get Started page to sign up and live your life to its fullest capacity with the help of our Support Workers.

Types of Disabilities


People live with a range of psychiatric disabilities, including:

  • Schizophrenia,
  • Bipolar disorder,
  • Anxiety,
  • Depression,
  • Personality disorders.



  • Attention Deficit Disorder,
  • Autism,
  • Asperger’s.


Physical disabilities include:

  • Arthritis,
  • Scoliosis,
  • Acquired brain injury,
  • Spinal cord injury,
  • Spina bifida,
  • Cerebral palsy,
  • Cystic fibrosis (CF),
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS),
  • Muscular dystrophy,
  • Tourette syndrome,
  • Dwarfism.


Neurological conditions include:

  • Brain cancer,
  • Dementia,
  • Epilepsy,
  • Motor neurone disease,
  • Parkinson’s disease.


Vision impairments include:

  • Aged Related Macular Degeneration,
  • Albinism,
  • Cataracts,
  • Charles Bonnet Syndrome,
  • Cortical Vision Impairment,
  • Diabetic Retinopathy,
  • Glaucoma,
  • Leber’s Congenita.


Hearing impairments include:

  • Conductive hearing loss,
  • Sensorineural hearing impairment,
  • Deafness.

Speech and Language Impairments

Speech and language impairments include:

  • Stuttering,
  • Articulation errors,
  • Tongue-tie,
  • Apraxia,
  • Dysarthria,
  • Selective mutism.

What are disabilities? 

Here’s a list of disabilities with definitions:

Alzheimer’s Disease

This affects memory and other important mental functions which is caused by cells degenerating.

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty thinking and understanding
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Personality changes
  • Agitation

Hearing Loss

Deafness is usually  caused by inner ear or nerve damage

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Inability to hear sound


This inflames one or more joints causing stiffness and pain.

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue

Cerebral Palsy

This disorder affects movement, muscle tone or posture due to abnormal brain development.

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Exaggerated reflexes
  • Involuntary motions
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiff muscles
  • Speech delay
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Seizures

Vision Impairment 

Characterised by blindness or partial vision which can not be fixed with glasses.

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Vision loss
  • Decreased ability to see

What are mental health issues? 

Here are some definitions of the most common mental health condition in Australia:

Clinical Depressio

Clinical depression is defined as a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Persistently depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Excessive sleep or insomnia
  • Lack of motivation to complete everyday tasks
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive crying
  • Irritability 
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of concentration
  • Excessive hunger or loss of appetite 
  • Thoughts of suicide 

Anxiety Disorder

This disorder is characterised by worry and fear which interferer’s with daily life and activities. Anxiety disorder encompasses obsessive-compulsive disorders, generalised anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Panic attacks
  • Inability to set aside worry
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Unwanted thoughts
  • Irritability 

Autism Spectrum Disorder

This disorder impairs communication and interaction with others.

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Difficulty communicating
  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Repetitive behaviours or speech
  • Poor eye contact
  • Obsessive or intense interests in limited number of things
  • Impulsivity
  • Learning disability or speech delay in childhood
  • Unaware of others emotions
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Anxiety 


This is a disorder which affects a person’s ability to feel, behave and think clearly. 

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Experiences or thoughts which seem out of touch with reality
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excitability
  • Disorganised speech or behaviour
  • Repetitive movements 
  • Decreased participation in daily activities
  • Memory difficulty 
  • Compulsive behaviour 
  • Hostility

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder involves episodes of mood swings from manic highs to depressive lows lasting from days to months. Depressive episodes include low motivation and energy, and loss of interest in daily activities. 

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Elevated mood
  • Euphoria
  • Risk taking behaviour
  • Apathy
  • Disorganised behaviour
  • Delusions
  • impulsivity
  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty falling asleep or excess sleepiness
  • Paranoia 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

HDHD is characterised by hyperactivity, difficulty with attention and impulsivity. 

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Fidgeting
  • Excitability
  • Absent-mindedness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anxiety 
  • Boredom
  • Mood swings 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

This disorder includes obsessions – excessive and unreasonable thoughts which leads to compulsions – repetitive behaviours. 

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Repetition of words or movements
  • Ritualistic behaviour
  • Hypervigilance
  • Impulsivity
  • Compulsive behaviour
  • Social isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attack
  • Repetitive thoughts
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Food aversion

Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder affecting chromosome 21 which causes intellectual and development delays, and distinctive facial appearance.

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Delayed development
  • Learning disability
  • Speech delay
  • Difficulty thinking and understanding 
  • Sleep apnea
  • Immune deficiency
  • Thyroid disease
  • Hearing loss

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This disorder involves the difficulty and failure to recover from witnessing or experiencing a frightening event. 

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Intense emotional and physical reactions
  • Triggered memories from the event
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Avoidance of situations which trigger trauma
  • Anxiety or mistrust
  • Emotional detachment
  • Unwanted thoughts
  • Depression 
  • Mistrust
  • Hypervigilance 

Intellectual Disability 

An intellectual disability is characterised by having an IQ below 70. This disability also includes difficulty with communication, socialisation and daily activities. 

Some symptoms and characteristics:

  • Difficulty thinking and understanding
  • Hyperactivity
  • Restlessness
  • impulsivity

There are many more disabilities out there and if we didn’t include yours, we apologise, just have a google of your disability and read more about it. Absolute Care & Health have go through their own list of the disabilities that are likely to qualify you for the NDIS.