It could be expected that, because of their higher rate of disabling conditions, such as injury, respiratory and circulatory diseases, rates of disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would be higher than those of the general population. While this expectation has been supported by the limited data previously available, including some studies of service use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) provided, for the first time, information on the prevalence of disability among Indigenous Australians.
The 2002 NATSISS included a short set of questions relating to disability. These questions asked people about problems that they have seeing, hearing and speaking among other things. People were also asked about everyday limitations related to these impairments. These questions are comparable with those asked in the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) for the Australian population, although there may be differences in interpretations of questions about health problems and the need for assistance.
This chapter provides information on the prevalence of disability in the Indigenous population and examines the relationships between disability and a number of life areas, including health and housing, education and economic participation, families, and social participation. Where possible, the impact of patterns of disability at different ages for Indigenous people are discussed. Information on use of disability and aged care services can be found in Chapter 11.