The United Nations defines people with disabilities as ‘those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.’

Our attitudes towards illness and disability are highly influenced by the culture in which we live. Society defines how we categorise people and our initial judgement of people is usually based on their physical appearance and our tendency to stereotype. Most of the negative attitudes towards disability come from a lack of proper understanding of disabilities and how they affect functioning.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘disability is part of being human and almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience disability at some point in their life, especially as we get older.’

Disablity and Continence OverviewHowever disability is defined, it is incumbent upon all of us to consider our attitudes and approaches to people with disability and work towards removing the barriers that often prevent them from participation in society on an equal basis. Being treated differently focuses on the disability of the individual rather than their abilities and potential for valuable contribution.

According to WHO, a person’s environment has a major impact on their experience and extent of disability. Inaccessible environments create barriers that often prevent the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society. Progress on improving social participation can be made by addressing these barriers and facilitating persons with disabilities in their day to day lives.

Whilst attitudes, behaviour and social structures take time and perseverance to change ‘efforts to eliminate all forms of prejudices and discrimination against persons with disabilities by some of the United Nation’s agencies, governments, and national and international disability organisations are being realised.’

Disability Associated Urinary Incontinence

Disability associated urinary incontinence is defined by the International Continence Society (ICS) as urinary incontinence in the presence of a functional ability to reach a toilet in time. This may occur in those living with a physical or cognitive condition which may impact their ability to access the toilet..

Disability associated urinary incontinence is when a person is unable to:

  • recognise the need to go to the toilet
  • locate the toilet
  • access the toilet
  • manage their personal needs (e.g., remove clothing)
  • recognise the toilet.

Causes of Functional Incontinence

When someone has disability associated urinary incontinence, it often means there is a physical, intellectual, or environmental issue that makes it difficult for them to use the toilet. Some of the causes of disability associated urinary incontinence include problems with walking/mobility, such as with arthritis or cerebral palsy, and problems with memory or learning, such as dementia and intellectual disability.


Tips for Carers

The right approach to caring for someone with disability associated urinary incontinence depends on their individual needs. There are many strategies that can be used to help them, depending on what is preventing them achieving continence as well as their individual needs or condition.

  • If there are physical barriers, toileting aids, easily removed clothing and wiping aids can help. Removing clutter, ensuring good lighting and mobility aids can also assist.
  • If there are cognitive barriers (e.g., dementia), ensure the toilet is visible using signs, pictures, and good lighting. Also take notice of any cues the person may give when they want to use the toilet (e.g., pulling at clothing, restlessness, etc.).
  • If you have any concerns about a person’s functionality or continence always consult a healthcare professional. You can also call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 0066 for free and confidential information and advice.

Knowing the person’s normal toileting routine will ensure help can be available at the right time. For more information and to download resources which may assist, go to