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Disabilities: Definition, Types and Models of Disability

Updated/Revised Date: 2022-04-07
Author: Disabled World | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)
Additional References: Types of Disability Publications

Synopsis: Definition of disability, including types of disabilities and defining the meaning of the various models of disability. A disability is defined as a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of an individual or group. The term is used to refer to individual functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment mental illness, and various types of chronic disease. Classifications of disability also recognize the role of physical and social environmental factors in affecting disability outcomes. Disabilities can impact people in different ways, even when one person has the same type of disability as another person. Some disabilities may be hidden, known as invisible disability. There are many types of disabilities.

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Main Document

What is a Disability?

A disability is defined as a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of an individual or group. The term is used to refer to individual functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment mental illness, and various types of chronic disease.

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:

Worms eye photography of five people.Worms eye photography of five people.

The classification also recognizes the role of physical and social environmental factors in affecting disability outcomes. Disabilities can impact people in different ways, even when one person has the same type of disability as another person. Some disabilities may be hidden, known as invisible disability. There are many types of disabilities, such as those that affect a person's:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Thinking
  • Learning
  • Movement
  • Mental health
  • Remembering
  • Communicating
  • Social relationships

What is The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)?

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, also known as ICF, is a classification of the health components of functioning and disability. The World Health Assembly on May 22nd, 2001, approved the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health and its abbreviation of "ICF." This classification was first created in 1980 and then called the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities, and Handicaps, or ICIDH by WHO to provide a unifying framework for classifying the health components of functioning and disability. The World Health Organization (WHO) published the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) in 2001 that covers;

  • Activity
  • Participation
  • Body Structures
  • Body Functions
  • Personal Factors
  • Health Conditions
  • Activity Limitations
  • Functional Limitations
  • Environmental Factors
  • Participation Restrictions

The ICF is structured around:

Classifications of Disabilities

Categories of disability types include various physical and mental impairments that can hamper or reduce a person's ability to carry out their day-to-day activities. These impairments can be termed as disability of the person to do his/her day-to-day activities. Disability can be broken down into a number of broad sub-categories, which include the following 8 main types of disability.

1 - 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.

2 - 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 are 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.

3 - 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 misfunctioning and behavioral disturbance.

4 - Vision Disability

There are hundreds of thousands of people that have 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 common vision impairment includes scratched cornea, scratches on the sclera, diabetes related eye conditions, dry eyes and corneal graft.

5 - Hearing Disability

Hearing disabilities includes people who 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".

6 - Cognitive or Learning Disabilities

Cognitive Disabilities are impairments present in people who are suffering from dyslexia and various other learning difficulties, and includes speech disorders.

7 - 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:

8 - 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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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2022, April 7). Disabilities: Definition, Types and Models of Disability. Disabled World. Retrieved December 3, 2022 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/types/

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