48 per cent of people with a disability used some form of aid in 1998, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Disability: the Use of Aids and the Role of the Environment is the first national report on the use of aids and equipment by people with disabilities and the status of other environmental factors important to people with disabilities.
Environmental factors described in the report include use of aids and equipment, access to public transport, support arrangements in educational and workplace settings, assistance with daily activities, and home modifications.
AIHW spokesperson Samantha Bricknell said that aids and equipment had considerable importance for many people with disabilities because they 'had the potential to improve lives by enabling greater independence and less reliance on personal assistance'.
'Environmental factors are important because they can either greatly help or greatly hinder individuals' participation in the economic and social world', Dr Bricknell said.
According to the report, people with a physical or hearing disability were more likely to be users of aids compared with people with an intellectual, psychiatric, vision or speech disability.
The average number of aids used by a person with a disability increased with severity of core activity restriction (core activities relate to self-care, mobility and/or communication). The variation was from an average of 1.2 aids for people with a mild core activity restriction to 3.5 aids for people with a profound core activity restriction.
Medical aids were the most frequently used for people aged 15-64 years, followed by mobility aids. Children under 15 years mostly used medical, self-care and communication aids.
Dr Bricknell said that, of the environmental factors, the educational environment may be of particular importance for younger people with disabilities.
'Over 70% of school-aged children with severe, moderate or mild core activity restrictions attended ordinary classes in 1998. For children with a profound core activity restriction (the highest level of restriction) the figure was 49%.'
'But our data also show that students with a disability attending primary or secondary school were more likely to be receiving support arrangements if in a special class or special school.'
Access to public transport was available to over 80% of people with a disability. However, approximately 21 per cent of people with a core activity restriction aged 5 to 64, and 26% aged over 65, could not use or only used some forms of public transport.
Home modifications varied with age of the person with a disability. Ramps and other structural changes were more common for people under 30 years, and handgrab rails more common for the over-30s. Toilet, laundry and bath modifications were equally important to all age groups.
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