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2018 APS Congress

The 2018 APS Congress will be held in Sydney from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 September 2018


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Disabilities are commonly referred to as being physical, mental and/or intellectual.

While individuals may have physical or psychological impairments, it is often the environment itself that contributes to the experience of disability by failing to accommodate people with impairments.

Inclusion and access is a fundamental human right. Inclusive and accessible communities are vital for individual and community mental health and wellbeing. Barriers to access deny people their right to participation, and disrupt the connections they have with their family and communities. Being socially excluded in this way is associated with poor mental health and wellbeing.

Key points

  • One in five Australians reports having a disability1
  • Stereotypes have contributed to a view of disability as a burden, such that people with disabilities are often portrayed as dependent recipients of government benefits, not engaged in the workforce and heavy users of health care services.
  • Structural discrimination against those with a disability compounds ongoing barriers to social and economic participation.
  • Psychologists work with people with disability across a range of settings including schools, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), hospitals and in private practice. Psychologists can offer interventions such as specialised assessment, mental health intervention, skills training, pain management, positive behaviour support, communication techniques, and environmental strategies. 
  • There is strong evidence supporting the benefits of psychological interventions in autism and intellectual disability, the two most prominent diagnoses amongst participants in the NDIS thus far.
  • The APS recognises that it is not the impairment itself that creates vulnerability, but rather the inequitable structures and systems which people with disabilities experience. This perspective is commonly known as the social model of disability (WHO World Report on Disability, 2011). 

How the APS is involved

The APS has contributed submissions on disability-related issues including the NDIS (e.g. the draft Quality and Safeguarding Framework), on abuse in institutions, and on the adequacy of residential aged care for young people.

A practice guide developed by the APS aims to reduce the need for restrictive practices in the disability sector.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2015). Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015. Catalogue No. 4430.0