‘Disabilities’ refers to a broad range of circumstances in which someone has any limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities. The occurrence of disabilities in young people is high with almost 10% of young people experiencing a disability.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states ‘that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community.’[1] Disability can create serious financial hardship, exclude people from activities and can impact on the overall wellbeing of young people and their families. The overall disability rate among young people aged 15 – 24 years is about nine percent.[2]

Working with young people with a disability is sometimes seen as separate to youth work. While it’s true disability work can require specialised skills and abilities, it is everyone’s responsibility to work to eliminate the social and structural barriers that prevent young people with disabilities from reaching their full potential and accessing the same life opportunities as their peers.

Young people with disabilities face significant barriers to accessing services, programs and opportunities available for other young people without disabilities. This can occur for a range of reasons that may include inadequate or inappropriate buildings and infrastructure, financial cost, discrimination or a general lack of support and belief in young people with disabilities.

[1] United Nations Children’s Fund (Nov 2007) Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 23.

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics. 1998 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.

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