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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of What is disability? UN convention on the rights of persons with disability, eligibility criteria and the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health

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Eligibility, the ICF and the UN Convention: Australian perspectives

Ros Madden1*, Nick Glozier2, Elias Mpofu3 and Gwynnyth Llewellyn3

Author Affiliations

1 Australian ICF Disability and Rehabilitation Research Program, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

2 Disciplines of Psychological Medicine and Sleep, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

3 Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11(Suppl 4):S6  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-S4-S6

Published: 31 May 2011


The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in Australia, acts as a philosophical and moral statement and framework guiding integrated and strategic policy across the nation. Broad policy agreement has been reached by governments, and both the government and non-government sectors are developing strategies for implementation or evaluation. There is however a need for a more integrated approach to disability policy and information, reflecting all three components of the Italian project:

• legislation and a high level philosophical framework and policy guide;

• a technical framework that can underpin specific policies and programs aiming to achieve the major goals; and ,

• a language and set of tools, relating to both the above, that provide infrastructure for assessment methods and information systems.

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is the ideal tool to support the latter two components, consistent with the UN Convention. While the ICF has been used as the basis for national data standards, in population surveys and in the national data collection on disability support services, there is considerable scope for greater use of it, including using all domains of the Activities and Participation and the Environmental Factors component for policy, information and service provision, to advance a disability-inclusive society. Information available from the income support system and from generic services could be enhanced by reference to the ICF components. It would be of significant national value in Australia, especially as a ‘continuum of care’ is desired, if consistency of concepts and information were expanded across health and social welfare sectors. It would then be possible to obtain consistent data from health, aged care, disability and community services systems about key aspects of health and functioning, building a consolidated picture of access and experience across these sectors. Without attention to all three components of the Italian project and continuing effort to meet the challenges identified in this paper, it will not be possible to determine whether the goals of Australia’s National Disability Agreement or the ambitions of the Convention are achieved.