Disability and Inequity

Led by Professor Eric Emerson, Professor and Chair in Disability Population Health

How can we research the barriers faced by people with disabilities?

‘Persons with disabilities continue to face barriers in their participation as equal members of society and violations of their human rights in all parts of the world’
(Preamble, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)

People with disabilities face widespread disadvantage and discrimination. For example, our research has shown that in 2015 disabled Australians were two to four times more likely than their non-disabled peers to have been assaulted in the previous year.

We need to know more about two key issues:

  1. How well are countries doing in combating the discrimination and disadvantage experienced by people with disabilities?
  2. What are the personal, social and economic costs of exposure to disadvantage and discrimination?

This workstream will focus on both of these areas.

  1. We will develop ways of monitoring the disadvantage and discrimination experienced by people with disabilities.
  2. We will do research on the impact that disadvantage and discrimination has on the wellbeing of people with disabilities.


Countries need to find better ways of recording and reporting on the extent and nature of the disadvantage and discrimination experienced by people with disabilities. This will help governments and non-government organisations (including disabled people’s organisations) to keep track of progress. It will help them identify areas where disadvantage and discrimination is being reduced. It will help them identify areas where it is getting worse. In Australia, it will help government and non-government organisations to assess the impact of major policy initiatives such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

We are working on two specific projects.

  • We have developed a way of monitoring whether the disadvantage experienced by adults with disabilities in Australia has changed since 2000. We will update this report every year.
  • We have been using UNICEF's data on child disability to publish a report on the disadvantage experienced by young children with disabilities in low and middle income countries.
  • To view reports relating to this workstream, please click here


We need to know more about the personal, social and economic costs of disadvantage and discrimination. Our research is focused on answering the following four questions.https://cms.ucc.usyd.edu.au/iw-cc/command/iw.group.formspub.save_valid_form

  • How many people with disability experience different types of adversity or disadvantage (e.g., poverty, social exclusion, harassment, abuse, hate crime)? Are groups, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, women, the young, older people, people living in poverty, at more risk of disability and disadvantage?
  • What impact does the experience of disadvantage have on the wellbeing of people with disabilities?
  • What impact does being or becoming disabled have on the disadvantage faced by people with disabilities?
  • What helps some people with disabilities be stronger or more resilient in the face of disadvantage?

Publications and Enquiries

For publications and other information about Professor Eric Emerson, please see the academic profile here

Professor Emerson also welcomes enquiries to his email address