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Disability: Definition, Types and Models

Disability is conceptualized as being a multidimensional experience for the person involved. There may be effects on organs or body parts and there may be effects on a person's participation in areas of life. Correspondingly, three dimensions of disability are recognized in ICF: body structure and function (and impairment thereof), activity (and activity restrictions) and participation (and participation restrictions). The classification also recognizes the role of physical and social environmental factors in affecting disability outcomes.

Classifications of Disabilities

Types of disabilities include various physical and mental impairments that can hamper or reduce a person's ability to carry out his day to day activities. These impairments can be termed as disability of the person to do his or her day to day activities.

These impairments can be termed as disability of the person to do his day to day activities as previously. "Disability" can be broken down into a number of broad sub-categories, which include the following:

Mobility and Physical Impairments

This category of disability includes people with varying types of physical disabilities including:

Disability in mobility can be either an in-born or acquired with age problem. It could also be the effect of a disease. People who have a broken bone also fall into this category of disability.

Spinal Cord Disability:

Spinal cord injury (SCI) can sometimes lead to lifelong disabilities. This kind of injury mostly occurs due to severe accidents. The injury can be either complete or incomplete. In an incomplete injury, the messages conveyed by the spinal cord is not completely lost. Whereas a complete injury results in a total dis-functioning of the sensory organs. In some cases spinal cord disability can be a birth defect.

Head Injuries - Brain Disability

A disability in the brain occurs due to a brain injury. The magnitude of the brain injury can range from mild, moderate and severe. There are two types of brain injuries:

ABI is not a hereditary type defect but is the degeneration that occurs after birth.

The causes of such cases of injury are many and are mainly because of external forces applied to the body parts. TBI results in emotional dysfunctioning and behavioral disturbance.

Vision Disability

There are hundreds of thousands of people that suffer from minor to various serious vision disability or impairments. These injuries can also result into some serious problems or diseases like blindness and ocular trauma, to name a few. Some of the common vision impairment includes scratched cornea, scratches on the sclera, diabetes related eye conditions, dry eyes and corneal graft.

Hearing Disability

Hearing disabilities includes people that are completely or partially deaf, (Deaf is the politically correct term for a person with hearing impairment).

People who are partially deaf can often use hearing aids to assist their hearing. Deafness can be evident at birth or occur later in life from several biologic causes, for example Meningitis can damage the auditory nerve or the cochlea.

Deaf people use sign language as a means of communication. Hundreds of sign languages are in use around the world. In linguistic terms, sign languages are as rich and complex as any oral language, despite the common misconception that they are not "real languages".

Cognitive or Learning Disabilities

Cognitive Disabilities are kind of impairment present in people who are suffering from dyslexia and various other learning difficulties and includes speech disorders.

Psychological Disorders

Affective Disorders:

Disorders of mood or feeling states either short or long term.

Mental Health Impairment is the term used to describe people who have experienced psychiatric problems or illness such as:

Invisible Disabilities

Invisible Disabilities are disabilities that are not immediately apparent to others. It is estimated that 10% of people in the U.S. have a medical condition considered a type of invisible disability.


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