Purpose: To examine whether differences in access to specialist disability services by people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds when compared with those born in Australia represent a service gap or the healthy migrant effect.
Method: To use the latest disability statistics to measure the different rates of people with disability, and the rates of people with profound and severe disability, of people born in Australia and those born abroad; to compare the difference between those who mainly speak English with those who primarily speak a language other than English at home (LOTE); and examine the age-specific and standardised disability rates of these subgroups.
Results: The rate of access of specialist disability services by people with disability who were from CALD backgrounds is highly disproportionate to their presence in the community. As a whole, people from CALD backgrounds have a similar level of disability as Australia-born people. They have a greater rate of profound and severe disability and a higher level of need for assistance in undertaking core activities. For younger age cohorts targeted by specialist disability services, there is little difference in the level of need for assistance between people from CALD backgrounds and the rest of community. Those people who mainly speak LOTE at home have a relatively higher level of need for assistance than those who speak mainly English at home.
Conclusions: The paper reveals a substantial gap in specialist disability services between people from CALD and the broader community. This cannot be explained by the difference in the level of need for assistance between Australia-born and overseas-born populations, therefore raises some policy questions as to the barriers to the use of such services and how to effectively narrow the service access gap and improve utilisation rates.
Implications for rehabilitation: The paper reveals a substantial accessibility gap in specialist disability services between people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and the broader community in Australia. Rehabilitation is a large component of disability services. Therefore, understanding the gap, promoting the awareness of the services, developing appropriate and effective services to respond the need of people with disability from CALD backgrounds, are critically important to rehabilitation services and related research.
Keywords: Australia; cultural diverse; disability; language other than English (LOTE); linguistic diverse; need for assistance; service access gap; service provision.