Understanding the diversity of disabilities in the workplace
At Castle, we believe everybody has the right to work, to live a full and meaningful life and contribute to society. The first step to enhancing the inclusion of people with disability is fostering awareness and increasing workplace participation rates.
Disabilities are diverse, not always visible and are unique to the individual. While our fact sheets offer insight into the impact of a disability on the employee’s abilities in the workplace, it is important to understand that each individual’s needs and circumstances will differ. We encourage you to promote open dialogue with your employees about this.
How to use this guide
This guide can be used as a resource in your business to increase your awareness and understanding of the spectrum of disabilities, how they can affect your employees, and how you can support them in the workplace.
Choose a category below, or scroll to select from a variety of specific conditions.
Find a summary of the signs and symptoms of each disability, the affect it may have on daily life at work, and suitable workplace support.
Types of Disabilities
Defining disabilities is complicated, as each individual’s experiences, restrictions or impairments are different. A person may be born with a disability or acquire it later in life due to injury or illness. It may be visible, invisible, permanent, temporary, physical, intellectual or related to mental health. Symptoms of conditions can often overlap, and people can often have more than one type of disability.
They can be loosely grouped in four categories:
Impact an individual’s emotions or behaviour. It is characterised by how a person thinks, feels or perceives. It is estimated that 45% of people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime.
Impact a person’s senses, spatial awareness and interaction with the world around them. The most common includes visual, hearing and speech impairments.
Impairs mobility, physical capacity or stamina. A person may be born with it or acquire it due to injury, illness or disease. While many assume physical disabilities only affect the body, they can also impact mental capacity such as an acquired brain injury
Impact a person’s ability to learn and communicate. It can be caused by illness, genetic or neuro-developmental conditions. These do not indicate low intelligence and can simply limit a person’s ability to acquire specific skills or their personality traits
Mental Health Conditions
ADHD impacts a person’s ability to control their behaviour. People with ADHD may
experience difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour.
Learning differences such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia or Dyscalculia affect the way the
brain interprets information. This impacts reading, writing, mathematics, organisation and communication skills.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is to come and is the body’s natural response to stress. People with anxiety experience intense, excessive and persistent worry about everyday situations such as phobias, separation, social situations or illness.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition where the individual experiences intense fluctuations in their mood and energy. The severity and duration of these episodes depends on the individual and their circumstances.
Clinical depression is more than just feeling low during tough times. It is characterised by intense negative feelings and a lack of interest or pleasure in life. The severity and duration differs significantly between cases.
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects the functioning of the mind. A key symptoms of the condition is psychosis, when the individual struggles to differentiate what is real from what it not, although not all people diagnosed with schizophrenia will experience psychosis
1 in 5 Australian
employees report that they have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the past 12 months.
Mental illness is an umbrella term used to describe the diverse range of unique conditions that affect an individual’s emotions, thinking or behaviour. Mental health conditions can range in severity and duration, and can re-occur throughout a person’s lifetime due to trauma or stress. Other conditions include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder.
When seeking feedback about why he didn’t get a job at a local cleaning company, Matt was told that management was concerned that because he couldn’t read, he might accidentally drink one of the chemicals. Matt says he was shocked and that his intellectual disability doesn’t prevent him from having common sense and being a hard worker.
Matt is now employed as a cleaner in Mayfield.
“being employed brings me satisfaction, a willing to get out of bed, have a purpose and feel needed in a place”
Hearing impairment can range in severity from partial to complete loss of sound, as well as conditions like Tinnitus. It can be caused by a multitude of factors including illness, infection, trauma, genetics congenital conditions, or age.
Visual impairment can range from partial vision loss that cannot be corrected through aids such as glasses, to complete blindness, where a person who has no measurable vision and light perception. Others conditions include cataracts, glaucoma and cortical vision impairment.
Other sensory impairments
Sensory impairments, such as speech and touch, can be a symptom of other disabilities, including Brain Injury, Neurological conditions and many others.
There are 575,000 people who are blind or vision impaired living in Australia
When Tyson became physically impaired, he faced barriers such as low self esteem, the loss of his licence and his independence. Despite this, he continues to look at the positives, focus on the here and now and not allow self-doubt to manifest.
Tyson goes above and beyond, especially when it comes to his job as a training instructor at Active Fitness. To get to work, he catches public transport from Kincumber to Doylson twice a week, leaving home in the early hours of the morning. A 3 hour round trip for a 4 hour shift.
That’s the kind of employee we’d want on our team.
ABIs are caused by damage to the brain due to an injury or illness. They can be a result of accidents, stroke, tumours, infection, lack of oxygen or degenerative neurological disease. ABIs result in deterioration of the person’s cognitive, physical, emotional or independent functioning.
“Health condition” is an umbrella term used to describe illnesses that affect the ability of the body to function, though are not as often recognised as disabilities. These conditions may be temporary, episodic, remissive, degenerative or terminal, and can include cancers, diabetes, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, immunodeficiency, alcohol/drug dependency and many others.
MSDs affect the body’s movement and are caused by injury to and/or overuse of
muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs and joints. Conditions can include scoliosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries and arthritis.
Physical impairment is an umbrella term that describes any condition that restricts a person’s mobility in their daily life. Common examples include Amputations and Limb Loss, Skin Conditions and Spinal Cord Injury.
This includes all injuries acquired on the job, including physical, psychological and diseases.
Only 4% of people with a physical disability in Australia use a wheelchair
Sarah is on the Autism spectrum and faces difficulty communicating in the workplace. Although she may seem shy or withdrawn, she loves her job in the kitchen at The George Tavern and takes pride in contributing to society through work. Sarah says in the past, the biggest challenge of her disability was
having the confidence to talk to her boss about her role in the business.
“it was very hard and stressful because I didn’t have anyone when I needed help”
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental condition that may affect a person’s communication skills, social interactions, interests and/or behaviours. The term 'spectrum' is used to emphasise that Autism is a unique experience for each person.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a permanent, non-progressive disorder caused by damage to
the developing brain, ranging from mild to severe. It affects body movement, coordination, muscle tone, reflexes, posture and balance.
People with DCD or Dyspraxia experience difficulties with their coordinated movement. This may impact fine motor skills tasks like writing and gross motor skills tasks like walking.
An intellectual disability is characterised by below average intellectual function, and can include physical, behavioural and emotional difficulties, ranging from mild to severe. Conditions include Fragile X Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and Developmental Delay.
MS is a neurological condition affecting elements of the central nervous system
including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Symptoms inclue muscular spasms, loss of mobility and motor weakness, as well as difficulty concentrating and vision loss.
1 in 70 Australians identify as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder
There are over 600 recognised Neurological conditions that affect the central nervous system. Common examples include Parkinson's Disease, Dementia, Epilepsy and stroke.