Disability can be understood as a continuum from having no impairment or limitation to the complete loss of functioning or ability to complete a task. The Australian Government defines disability as:

“… an umbrella term for any or all of the following components, all of which may also be influenced by environmental and personal factors:

  • impairment—problems in body function or structure
  • activity limitation—difficulties in executing activities
  • participation restriction—problems an individual may experience in involvement in life situations.” (Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, 2020)

One in six Australians have a disability. It can be the result of genetic disorders, illnesses, accidents, ageing, or a combination of these factors. Long-term health conditions might lead to disability, and conversely, disability can contribute to health problems. In general, people with disability report poorer general health and higher levels of psychological distress than people without disability. As a result, health care settings and treatments for people with disability vary.

Students may work with a person who has a disability:

  • Directly, in:
    • Public and private health hospitals
    • Community health care services (which can include outpatient services, crisis or mobile assessment and treatment units, day programs and outreach services)
    • Private practice
    • Residential care facilities, such as aged care or specialist disability accommodation
    • Other government agencies such as education settings (school and pre-schools), housing.
    • Other non-government organisations
  • Indirectly, in any health care setting, where the client may present for treatment for a coexisting health condition (for example, diabetes).

Given that disability does not discriminate and affects a broad spectrum of Australians at any given time, supervisors and students should also consider the likelihood that they will be working alongside a person with a disability as part of their multidisciplinary team.


The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The NDIS provides funding for people with disability to access supports and services to help them achieve their goals. Since the legislation was introduced in 2013, there has been increased demand for allied health professionals in the disability workforce. Student placements are one way to introduce future allied health professionals to this sector.

Planning and preparing for student placements in NDIS is essential. You might find it useful to refer to the ‘Preparing for and managing Placements’ section of this website to access general student supervisor material to support your preparation, and check with your NDIS provider organisations around reporting requirements.

In this practice context section, you can access:

  • Potential considerations when NDIS providers host allied health student placements.
  • Resources to support student supervisors manage student placements in NDIS provider organisations.
  • Resources to support allied health students prepare for placements in NDIS provider organisations.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) Disability. Accessed May 2021 from:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) People with disability in Australia – Overview. Accessed May 2021 from:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) People with disability in Australia – Health. Accessed May 2021 from

Australian Government Department of Social Services (nd) Allied health student placements. Accessed May 2021 from:



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