Hintere Außenansicht des D2 Gebäudes

People with disabilities - overview

Legal information

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the United Nations (Disability Rights Convention; UN-BRK), which 177 states have ratified (as of April 2018), was a milestone.

The Disability Rights Convention has been in force in Austria since 2008. It obliges the Republic of Austria to guarantee all essential rights for people with disabilities. An important example is accessibility, i.e. access to the physical environment, to means of transport, to information and communication, as well as to public facilities and services. Essential decisions in which services and products, which types and forms of accessibility should be invested require data on the number of people affected and the type and extent of their need for support. On this basis, political decisions can be made in this essential social and socio-political area.

Data situation

Unfortunately, despite increased research efforts, the data situation is unsatisfactory both nationally and internationally. This is due, among other things, to a heterogeneous understanding of what constitutes impairment and which persons are affected.


For example, in the current report of the Austrian Federal Government on the situation of people with disabilities, it is assumed that every fifth person in a private household is affected by a physical, sensory or cognitive impairment. This corresponds to about 1.34 million people aged 15 years and older (Baldaszti, 2016). According to official statistics, an additional 6,709 persons are accommodated in institutions for people with disabilities (Statistik Austria, 2015).

Own surveys of the NPO Competence Center among the Austrian federal provinces, however, revealed a much larger number of 13,760 persons or 0.16% of the population. Other statistics speak of almost 400,000 disabled persons who have a disability pass or of about 100,000 persons who receive increased family allowances.

The wide range can be explained by the nature of the issue or the eligibility criteria. For example, in the survey conducted by Statistics Austria, the question was raised whether the person feels restricted in everyday life by a health impairment that lasts longer than six months. Increased family allowances, on the other hand, are only available to children who have experienced a significant disability before the age of 21 or, in exceptional cases, before the age of 25. After that, it is granted without age limit.

Another problem is that official statistics do not record persons living in institutions. This means, for example, that a large number of people with intellectual impairments do not have the chance to take part in surveys about their quality-of-life. The same applies, by the way, to people living in retirement and nursing homes.


The collection of data on people with disabilities is difficult, not only in Austria. There are also few valid comparable data on this topic at a European level. In 2012, the European Health and Social Integration Survey (EHSIS) was carried out as the only EU-wide survey specialised in this topic so far. Since the creation of a common legal basis for a regularly conducted "Disability Survey" failed, only some questions of the EHSIS will be integrated into the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) which is conducted every 5 years.

Some international examples show that the inclusion of people with disabilities in special surveys is possible. These include the Australian Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), the Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) or the Life Opportunities Survey in Great Britain (LOS). In 2017 a comprehensive representative survey on the participation of people with disabilities was also conducted in the Federal Republic of Germany (Schröder et al 2017).

Ageing society

In recent years, the topic of age and impairment has become increasingly relevant, especially with regard to intellectually impaired people. Many intellectually impaired people were employed in sheltered workshops and lived in residential facilities that are not care facilities for their entire lives. Now, for the first time, an entire generation of impaired persons is reaching a higher age. These people, however, have different needs in terms of care and support than people who have spent their lives up to old age without obvious impairments.


Other current issues are inclusion at work, in leisure time and accessibility. The latter is regulated in the Act on the Equality of Persons with Disabilities (only available in German).

In essence, people with disabilities should have the same access to publicly offered services as people without disabilities. Offers which are available to the public must therefore be accessible without barriers and accessible and usable by people with disabilities in the generally customary manner, i.e. without particular difficulty and in principle without outside help. Last but not least, the topic of people with disabilities also found resonance with social entrepreneurs. Projects such as “Dialog im Dunkeln” (Dialogue in the Dark), “Discovering Hands” or “Specialisterne” (all three websites are only available in German) show impressively how the topic of inclusion can be rolled up in the context of market-oriented companies and how social added value can be created.

The NPO Competence Center has extensive experience with the topic of inclusion and sees itself as a professional contact partner. In recent years, we have carried out several participatory processes involving people with intellectual and multiple disabilities as well as people with physical and/or sensory impairments.