In 1981, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducted its first national survey of Australians living with a disability. The trailblazing Survey of Handicapped Persons (1981) was the first to provide valuable data on the lives of people with disabilities. 

The survey was in response to the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP), a year that many consider to be a turning point in the Australian and international disability rights movement. According to Griffith University Emeritus Professor Lesley Chenoweth, it “would be hard to overstate the profound impact IYDP had on Australian society”.  

Around this time, Griffith Library became involved in the MIND (Meeting the Information Needs of the Disabled) project. This nationwide initiative aimed to standardise library services for users with disabilities. 

As part of this project, the Library began making taped recordings of readings for our vision-impaired students. Students with disabilities could also use dedicated intercom systems to request help from Library staff. 

In their latest survey, the ABS reported there are 4.4 million Australians living with a disability. Of those, one in six (16.1%) aged 15 years and over has a bachelor degree or above. 

While much progress has been made over the last several decades, as Michelle Marquardt of the ABS notes, “there are significant gaps in every state and territory for labour force participation, educational attainment and household income, if you compare the circumstances of people with disability, with people without disability”. 

The University’s Disability Action Plan now drives Griffith’s goals and actions in this area. It promotes the changes needed to work towards the full participation of people with disabilities in education and employment. 

If you are a student with a disability, find out how the university can help you make the most of your student experience.