Applying for the NDIS can seem like a daunting task. But knowing the basic steps involved in making an application and where to find support at each stage, can help it be less overwhelming.
There are several main steps to making an NDIS application:
- Getting an NDIS application form
- Completing your NDIS access request form
- Gathering supporting evidence
- Submitting your application and waiting for a response
Getting an NDIS Application Form
An NDIS application is known as an Access Request Form.
Before you can receive support from the NDIS, you need to lodge a formal application and be approved by the NDIA.
This process can seem lengthy and complicated, but there are ways to get through it.
Much of the language used in the next section reflects the language used on the NDIS application form. You might find some of this language confronting. If this raises any issues for you, see our guide to self care and support resources.
There are several ways to make an Access Request:
- You can make an Access Request by calling 1800 800 110
- You can start your application by filling in an Access Request Form from your local NDIS or partner office You can find your local NDIS office by entering your postcode here
- Alternatively, you can download an Access Request Form here and return the completed form by email to [email protected], or by post to GPO Box 700, Canberra, ACT 2601.
There are multiple choices here to cater to all sorts of disabilities. It is up to you to decide which option you would like to take. It is important to note that email does tend to be the quickest option.
Completing Your NDIS Access Request Form
The current Access Request Form is 28 pages long, but don’t freak out – most of the form is to be completed by your treating/ health professional.
You will need to provide:
- Your personal details – name, date of birth, address, gender, country of origin, language spoken at home, any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, whether you are an Australian citizen or your visa category if you don’t have citizenship.
- You will need to sign a privacy disclaimer and consent to release your information on the access request form.
- Contact details for how you would like the NDIA to contact you.
- Parental consent (if you are under 18).
- Information about your carers and family members (if applicable).
- They will ask you to describe your ‘primary disability’. You may have multiple conditions and impairments that have a disabling effect, but the NDIS wants to know ‘what is your primary disability’ – the condition and/or impairment that has the most impact on your life – and then any secondary disability
- You will need to tell the NDIS whether you acquired your disability as a result of an injury and if so, whether you received compensation for that injury.
- You will need to provide supporting documentation to verify the nature of your disability and the impact they have on your daily life. This may include any diagnostic or assessment reports, or having a medical or allied health professional complete this information on the form.
You won’t need to explain what support you want to get – this will be worked out after you’re approved, when you have your first planning meeting.
Information for trans & gender diverse people
Trans and gender diverse people may have concerns that the NDIS will not respect your name, pronouns or gender identity. You may have experienced this discrimination before.
The NDIS endeavours to use your chosen name and pronouns when speaking with you. You can list your chosen name, gender and pronouns on the NDIS access request form.
You can update your legal and chosen names, pronouns, information about your gender by completing the form linked in this page. You can also contact the NDIS by phone or in person.
You can find more information on affirming your gender, and a range of other resources for trans people, at Transhub.
Gathering Supporting Evidence
“Documentation, documentation, documentation. Keep as much of a paper trail as possible, get as many letters from as many doctors as you can” – Sarah, she/her, lives with ADHD, Dyspraxia and CPTSD and a child with ADHD & Dyspraxia
The most important part of your NDIS application is the supporting evidence. This is evidence you provide to the NDIA outlining the nature of your disability, the impact it has on your daily functioning, and your likely needs for support. It is important to provide evidence from medical and/or disability specialists. You may also choose to provide letters from friends, family or carers, and to write a statement yourself, describing your current living situation, any employment, the impact of disability on your daily life and any informal supports you have.
It is important to understand the language and format the NDIA is looking for in a successful NDIS application. The language needed for a successful NDIS application is different to the language needed for a successful Disability Support Pension application.
The best evidence of disability is a report by a treating professional whose area of expertise relates to your primary disability. The report needs to state that the functional impacts of your disability are significant and permanent, and details of management and support for your disability. The report should use wording such as 'There are no available, evidence based treatments/interventions that are likely to substantially relieve’ your 'impairment'’ to make it clear that there is no cure for your disability.
It can sometimes be difficult to get an assessment. There can be long waiting times to see specialists, and the cost of seeing specialists can be expensive. If you are unable to access a treating specialist, an alternative is to have your GP complete a World Health Organisation Disability Assessment Schedule (WHODAS) report. You can find a link to the WHODAS assessment schedule here.
If you see your GP, they will need to write a detailed report on your assessed disability, how they made the assessments, and the impact of your disability on your daily life.
If you don’t currently have a GP, or are worried about finding a practitioner that is LGBTQ+ affirming, there are a number of ways you can find an affirming doctor. There are online directories like TransHub’s Gender Affirming Doctor List (currently NSW only) or DocDir- an Australia-wide directory of LGBTQ+ inclusive clinicians and services. You can also search online for LGBTQ+ friendly doctors in your specific area. Practitioners will often list their experience working with LGBTQ+ people on their website.
Two of the most common reasons for people to have their NDIS application rejected are
- Not providing sufficient evidence that their disability is permanent; and
- Not showing the functional impact of their disability on their daily life and functioning.
So the supporting evidence for your application – both reports from treating professionals and impact letters included in your application – needs to stress that your disability/s are permanent, and show the impact of your disability on your daily life in at least one of the following six areas:
“When you’re applying and collecting all the documents, make sure you put everything. If you think it’s too much, don’t! The more you put, the easier it is for them to assess you. I wrote a four page personal account about how disability affects me daily, because the NDIS people aren’t necessarily medical professionals… this will help them understand” – Anthony (he/them/she), lives with Tourette’s
- An impact letter/statement/carer statement is a document that you can use along with documents from health professionals and providers when applying for the NDIS or when you are having your NDIS review.
- It can be written by yourself, or by anyone impacted by your disability such as your family, friends or carers.
- An impact statement is not required but it is worth writing as it can have an effect on the outcome. You can never have too much evidence, you can only ever have too little.
- When writing an impact letter, it is often useful to refer to your “worst day” as this is what the NDIS will use to make your plan up with. Your worst day is when your disability and its symptoms and impacts are at their worst. This is important for those whose conditions vary day by day. It is helpful to write it as if you’re having one of those worst days – what would you need to make those worst days more bearable?
Writing or reading an impact letter which focuses on functional impact and impairments can be difficult. Focusing on deficits is at odds with how hard many of us have fought for disability and LGBTQ+ Pride.
It can be helpful to think of writing from a deficit or functional impact perspective as another strategic form of advocacy to get what you need. You can also think about the letter as describing the impact of the lack of supports which has led you to apply for the NDIS, even as you use language that’s about your disability.
When writing your letter, think about the six areas of impact: Social Interaction, Mobility, Learning, Self-care, self-management and communication.
For example, if you experience chronic pain, the primary impact that might come to mind might be mobility- if some days the pain is so bad you can’t get out of bed. But if on those days you’re also not able to attend events, work or education, or communicate effectively, you should clearly name those impacts on the other domains of your life as well.
Be specific about the impacts of your disability (or the lack of supports you have access to.
For example, instead of writing “My diagnosis of an acquired brain injury impacts my independence”, Write in detail about how your disability affects your daily life:
“The impact of my acquired brain injury has meant I have a number of difficulties in the self management domain. I have trouble remembering appointments that I’ve made, which means it’s harder for me to get the support that I need. I often forget to pay bills, and this has the impact of meaning I now have debt and need help managing my money. My ability to communicate is also impacted by the dyspraxia I experience, and this makes it more difficult for me to attend events without a support person.”
Submitting Your Application and Waiting for a Response
Submitting your NDIS application can trigger a range of emotions - you may feel proud, relieved, or annoyed at having to jump through hoops to access support.
Once you submit your NDIS application, there can be several weeks wait for a response. This waiting period can be stressful as you continue to navigate daily life without disability supports and you may worry that you haven’t included enough information in your NDIS application.
“Once my application to the NDIS was submitted, I had a lot of stress and anxiety around what was happening. Things just seemed to move very slowly. In terms of coping with that stress, I think it’s really important to have a good support network. I have close friends I talked to a lot as I was going through the process and vented anxieties and frustrations around that” – Finn, he/him, lives with Cerebral Palsy.
Barriers and Challenges
- Sometimes, when you apply for NDIS access or contact the NDIS, you might have to wait a long time for a response.
- If you are waiting a long time to hear back from the NDIS, it isn’t personal and doesn’t mean your request will be rejected.
- You can always contact the NDIS again and ask if there is any update on your request.
Find out more about the NDIS Journey
Is the NDIS right for you? | Your NDIS application | Your NDIS application was successful – What next? | Your NDIS application was unsuccessful – What next? | Self Care, Facing Stress and Anxiety | Family, Friends and Allies | Language used | Useful Links |