Links & other information

International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), World Health Organization

Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers glossary, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Standardised disability flag

The AIHW has developed a disability 'flag' that identifies records of people with a disability within a data collection. The flag derives from a standard set of questions that assesses a person's level of functioning and need for support in everyday activities. The set is based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), and is broadly consistent with the short disability questions that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) uses in a number of its social surveys. The flag is intended for use in collections covering a wide range of sectors, enabling nationally consistent collection of information about the disability status of people encountering mainstream services.


A major theme running through the disability policy of all Australian governments is ensuring mainstream services and programs address the needs of people with disability. (Mainstream services are services that people encounter in everyday life-such as healthcare, education, housing, transport, community services.)

A critical first step to improve the capability of mainstream services to support people with disability is to be able to meaningfully identify people with disability. This is important for monitoring the gap in health and social outcomes between people with disability and other Australians. This information also provides a broader sense of the balance of service needs and service provision to people with disability.

Development principles

The flag is based on the following principles:

  • data should be readily collectable by all mainstream services
  • the flag should be consistent with the ICF
  • data should be comparable—similar experiences should be coded similarly across a service sector and between sectors
  • data should be meaningful—sufficiently sensitive, sufficiently broad, and sufficiently specific
  • the flag should be aligned with disability data items in population surveys and censuses
  • the flag should use existing national data standards, wherever possible.

Development process

The AIHW developed the flag with reference to:

  • the concepts underpinning the ICF
  • the range of ABS instruments used to measure disability (including survey and census-based instruments)
  • international developments in disability measurement, such as the WHODAS 2.0 and the
    'Washington Group' set of questions for population assessment of activity limitations.

During the development the AIHW consulted with experts in disability concepts and measurement.

Draft versions of the flag were then tested and refined through a series of focus groups, cognitive interviews and pilot testing. Each of these development components including input from people with lived experience of disability.


The flag enables the following outputs at an individual level (which can also be aggregated to report at a collection level, or for client sub-groups):

  • extent of activity limitation
  • activity limitation flag (a summary of extent of activity limitation)
  • extent of core activity limitation
  • education participation restriction flag
  • employment participation restriction flag.

Relevant metadata have been produced in ISO/IEC 11179 format on METeOR.

Current use

Australia's National Disability Strategy signals the intention for a disability identifier to be implemented in data collections for mainstream services such as healthcare, education, housing, transport and community services.

Versions of the flag have been implemented in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC), the National Prisoner Health Data Collection (NPHDC) and are in the process of being implemented within other AIHW collections.

Further information