"Disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others." United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

People with disability work across a wide range of jobs in the NSW public sector and the broader workforce. 


7.5% of employed people in Australia

NSW sector roles include Chief Executives, General Managers and Legislators, Education, Health and Welfare Services Managers, Business Administration Managers, and ICT Managers.


8% of employed people in Australia

NSW sector roles include School Teachers, Midwifery and Nursing Professionals, Social and Welfare Professionals, Legal Professionals, Human Resource & Training Professionals, Business and Systems Analysts, and Programmers.

Technicians and Trades Workers

9 % of employed people in Australia

NSW sector roles include Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers, ICT and Telecommunications Technicians, Electronics and Telecommunications Trades Workers, and Electricians.

Community and Personal Service Workers

8% of employed people in Australia

NSW sector roles include Fire Fighters and Police, Education Aides, Health and Welfare Support Workers, and Prison and Security Officers.

Clerical and Administrative Workers

8% of employed people in Australia

NSW sector roles include General Clerks, Clerical and Office Support Workers, Contract, Program and Project Administrators, Call or Contact Centre Information Clerks, and Receptionists.

Machinery Operators and Drivers

10% of employed people in Australia

NSW sector roles include Bus and Rail Drivers, Mobile Plant Operators, Stationary Plant Operators, and Truck Drivers.


12% of employed people in Australia

NSW sector roles include Cleaners and Laundry Workers, Food Preparation Assistants, Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers, and Construction and Mining Labourers

Working arrangements

There are already a substantial number of people with disability in the workforce, working in many different professions, with over a quarter working full time.  It’s important not to make any assumptions about whether a person prefers to work part-time or full-time. There’s already strong representation of people with disability who are working in all main national occupation categories.  

A review of the data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that:

  • 28.3% of people with disability of working age were employed full-time  
  • 19.6% of people with disability of working age were employed part time
  • 11.4% of people with a profound or severe disability of working age work full-time

The AIHW deeper dive of employment statistics found that:

  • Most (88%) of employed working-age people with disability do not require specific arrangements from their employer. 
  • Of those surveyed who use specific leave arrangements at least 1 day per week, the most common arrangement is to work:
    • casual or part-time hours (53%)
    • flexible hours (25%)

The AIHW deeper dive of employment statistics noted that of the 12% of people with disability who do require specific arrangements:

  • 50% need special equipment or modified buildings/fittings, or to be provided special/free transport or parking.
  • 25% need a special support person to assist or train them on the job (applies to salary or wage earners only) or to be provided help from someone at work, or to be provided training/retraining.
  • 26% need to be allocated different duties.

For more information on the employment of people with disability in Australia, refer to the Includeability resources.

Education levels of people with disability

The best predictors of whether a person with disability will be employed (or not) are work experience during education and their educational attainment.  

The AIHW deeper dive of educational attainment statistics found that:

  • 33% of people with disability had completed year 12 or equivalent
  • 16.1% had a bachelor’s degree or above
  • 9.2% had an advanced diploma or diploma.

Unsurprisingly – a higher percentage of people with disability with postgraduate degrees, graduate diplomas, certificates, or bachelor’s degrees are employed while proportionately more people with a Certificate III/IV experience higher levels of unemployment.

When university students with disability have a chance to work during their education, they increase their chances of employment after graduation. For example, over 80% of university graduates who completed a ‘Stepping Into Internship’ are employed 4 months after finishing their studies while 57% of graduates with disability who didn’t do an internship were employed 4 months after finishing their studies.

Barriers that prevent people with disability from getting work

In 2008 Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD), a human rights treaty designed to protect the rights and dignity of people with disability. The CRPD is based on the social model of disability which underlines that ‘disability’ results from the interaction between persons with impairments and societal barriers. In employment settings, these barriers can be categorised as:

  • Attitudinal barriers: lack of knowledge and understanding, lack of confidence of recruiters and hiring managers, low expectations, fear of making a mistake. 
  • Systemic barriers: job descriptions, application processes, built environment barriers, lack of time and resources, lack of ‘straight-through’ processes, complexity of employment service programs and providers.
  • Structural disadvantage: education, work experience and discrimination.  

Attitudinal barriers

Typical attitudinal barriers in the workplace  What you can do
Negative attitudes towards or assumptions about people with disability
Lack of knowledge about how to recruit/retain people with disability


Workplace culture 


System barriers

Typical system barriers  What you can do 
Workforce planning targets do not include people with disability 
Inaccessible websites (preventing proceeding through the application process and successfully uploading); inaccessible role descriptions 
  • Educate yourself and your team on the basic standard of accessibility expected for the NSW government sector and learn how to make your services and processes more inclusive and accessible
  • Ensure websites are accessible and allow for all candidates to proceed through the application process and upload documents. 
  • If there are known accessibility issues, make sure you have a contact person who can support a person with disability to complete and submit their application.
Role descriptions which do not clearly state essential or inherent requirements 
  • Refer to the Essential requirements factsheet.
  • Inclusion of essential requirements in a role description or job advertisement needs careful thought. If these are not necessary to achieve the outcomes of the role they may be discriminatory.
Inflexible interview requirements
  • Consider how assessments can be as inclusive as possible. For example, talk to all applicants about their needs for interviews and other assessments. Be flexible and make adjustments to support individual needs.
  • To understand best practice interviewing techniques, refer to the practical guide for interviewing.
Lack of adjustments throughout the application process
Psychometric testing 
  • Recognise that psychometric assessment may not always be available in accessible formats and can have the unintended consequence of unfairly disadvantaging people with disability. Consider the use of other assessments ahead of psychometric testing.
  • You may need to make workplace adjustments to psychometric assessments for people with disability if you still choose the use this assessment method. Speak to HR or your supplier about options for adjustments.
Inaccessible premises 
Health declarations or assessments, where it is not made clear what is required to ‘pass’; or which assess attributes other than those directly linked to inherent requirements
  • Explain why screening checks such as health assessments are being done.
  • A health assessment may be carried out where a candidate’s physical fitness to perform the duties of a role to which they are to be assigned is a condition of engagement
  • Health assessments of this kind should be carried out only to assess the person’s capacity to carry out the inherent requirements and demands of the role.
Format of offer 


Structural barriers

Structural disadvantage compounds over time.  You may not have any direct role in overcoming the structural disadvantage, but knowledge of it helps you to contextualise the multilayered barriers that people with disability can face.

Examples include:

  • Experiences of institutional ableism and discrimination 
  • Socio economic disadvantage; higher unemployment rates 
  • Inequality in education
  • Inequitable access to health services 
  • Social exclusion and marginalisation – and many others not listed here.

What you can do