Disability is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental,
intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these.
It substantially affects a person's life activities and may be present
from birth or occur during a person's lifetime. 
Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity
limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a
problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a
difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action;
while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an
individual in involvement in life situations.
Disability is thus not
just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the
interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the
society in which he or she lives.
— World Health Organization, Disabilities
Disability is a contested concept, with different meanings for
different communities. It may be used to refer to physical or
mental attributes that some institutions, particularly medicine, view
as needing to be fixed (the medical model). It may refer to
limitations imposed on people by the constraints of an ableist society
(the social model). Or the term may serve to refer to the identity of
Physiological functional capacity (PFC) is a related
term that describes an individual's performance level. It gauges one's
ability to perform the physical tasks of daily life and the ease with
which these tasks are performed. PFC declines with advancing age to
result in frailty, cognitive disorders, and/or physical disorders, all
of which may lead to labeling individuals as disabled.
The discussion over disability's definition arose out of disability
activism in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1970s,
which challenged how the medical concept of disability dominated
perception and discourse about disabilities. Debates about proper
terminology and their implied politics continue in disability
communities and the academic field of disability studies. In some
countries, the law requires that disabilities are documented by a
healthcare provider in order to assess qualifications for disability
2.2 People-first language
3 The workforce
4.1 Medical model
4.2 Social model
4.2.1 Social construction
4.3 Other models
5.1.1 Inspiration porn
5.1.3 Disabled villain
5.2 Self advocacy
6 Assistive technology
7 Adapted sports
Rights and government policies
8.2 Policies and actions
8.2.1 Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities
8.2.2 International Year of Disabled Persons
8.2.3 Policies in the United States
126.96.36.199 Rehabilitation Act of 1973
188.8.131.52 The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
8.2.4 Policies in the United Kingdom
8.2.5 Policies in Japan
8.2.6 Policies in Sweden
8.3 Political issues
9.1 United States
9.2 Developing nations
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
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Contemporary understandings of disability derive from concepts that
arose during the West's scientific Enlightenment; prior to the
Enlightenment, physical differences were viewed through a different
During the Middle Ages, madness and other conditions were thought to
be caused by demons. They were also thought to be part of the natural
order, especially during and in the fallout of the Plague, which
wrought impairments throughout the general population. In the early
modern period there was a shift to seeking biological causes for
physical and mental differences, as well as heightened interest in
demarcating categories: for example, Ambroise Pare, in the sixteenth
century, wrote of "monsters", "prodigies", and "the maimed". The
European Enlightenment's emphases on knowledge derived from reason and
on the value of natural science to human progress helped spawn the
birth of institutions and associated knowledge systems that observed
and categorized human beings; among these, the ones significant to the
development of today's concepts of disability were asylums, clinics,
Contemporary concepts of disability are rooted in eighteenth- and
nineteenth-century developments. Foremost among these was the
development of clinical medical discourse, which made the human body
visible as a thing to be manipulated, studied, and transformed. These
worked in tandem with scientific discourses that sought to classify
and categorize and, in so doing, became methods of normalization.
The concept of the "norm" developed in this time period, and is
signaled in the work of the
Belgian statistician, sociologist,
mathematician, and astronomer Adolphe Quetelet, who wrote in the 1830s
of l'homme moyen – the average man. Quetelet postulated that one
could take the sum of all people's attributes in a given population
(such as their height or weight) and find their average, and that this
figure should serve as a norm toward which all should aspire.
This idea of a statistical norm threads through the rapid take up of
statistics gathering by Britain, United States, and the Western
European states during this time period, and it is tied to the rise of
eugenics. Disability, as well as other concepts including: abnormal,
non-normal, and normalcy came from this. The circulation of these
concepts is evident in the popularity of the freak show, where showmen
profited from exhibiting people who deviated from those norms.
With the rise of eugenics in the latter part of the nineteenth
century, such deviations were viewed as dangerous to the health of
entire populations. With disability viewed as part of a person's
biological make-up and thus their genetic inheritance, scientists
turned their attention to notions of weeding such "deviations" out of
the gene pool. Various metrics for assessing a person's genetic
fitness, which were then used to deport, sterilize, or
institutionalize those deemed unfit. At the end of the Second World
War, with the example of Nazi eugenics, eugenics faded from public
discourse, and increasingly disability cohered into a set of
attributes that medicine could attend to – whether through
augmentation, rehabilitation, or treatment. In both contemporary and
modern history, disability was often viewed as a by-product of incest
between first-degree relatives or second-degree relatives.
In the early 1970s, disability activists began to challenge how
society treated disabled people and the medical approach to
disability. Due to this work, physical barriers to access were
identified. These conditions functionally disabled them, and what is
now known as the social model of disability emerged. Coined by Mike
Oliver in 1983, this phrase distinguishes between the medical model of
disability – under which an impairment needs to be fixed – and the
social model of disability – under which the society that limits a
person needs to be fixed.
Museum of disABILITY History, Buffalo, New York.
Different terms have been used for disabled people in different times
Disability or impairment are commonly used, as are more
specific terms, such as blind (to describe having no vision at all) or
visually impaired (to describe having limited vision).
Handicap has been disparaged as a result of false folk etymology that
says it is a reference to begging. It is actually derived from an old
game, Hand-i'-cap, in which two players trade possessions and a third,
neutral person judges the difference of value between the
possessions. The concept of a neutral person evening up the odds
was extended to handicap racing in the mid-18th century. In handicap
racing, horses carry different weights based on the umpire's
estimation of what would make them run equally. The use of the term to
describe a person with a disability—by extension from handicap
racing, a person carrying a heavier burden than normal—appeared in
the early 20th century.
Main article: People-first language
People-first language is one way to talk about disability that some
people prefer. Using people-first language is said to put the person
before the disability, so those individuals who prefer people-first
language, prefer to be called, "a person with a disability". Some
people prefer person-first phrasing, while others prefer
For people-first guidelines, check out, "Cerebral Palsy: A Guide for
Care" at the University of Delaware:
American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association style guide states that, when
identifying a person with a disability, the person's name or pronoun
should come first, and descriptions of the disability should be used
so that the disability is identified, but is not modifying the person.
Acceptable examples included "a woman with Down syndrome" or "a man
who has schizophrenia". It also states that a person's adaptive
equipment should be described functionally as something that assists a
person, not as something that limits a person, for example, "a woman
who uses a wheelchair" rather than "a woman in/confined to a
A similar kind of "people-first" terminology is also used in the UK,
but more often in the form "people with impairments" (such as "people
with visual impairments"). However, in the UK, the term "disabled
people" is generally preferred to "people with disabilities". It is
argued under the social model that while someone's impairment (for
example, having a spinal cord injury) is an individual property,
"disability" is something created by external societal factors such as
a lack of accessibility. This distinction between the individual
property of impairment and the social property of disability is
central to the social model. The term "disabled people" as a political
construction is also widely used by international organisations of
disabled people, such as
Disabled Peoples' International (DPI).
The use of “people-first” terminology has given rise to the use of
the acronym PWD to refer to person(s) (or people) with disabilities
(or disability). However other individuals and groups
prefer identity-first language to emphasize how a disability can
impact peoples identities. Which style of language used varies between
different countries, groups and individuals.
To a certain degree, physical impairments and changing mental states
are almost ubiquitously experienced by people as they age. Aging
populations are often stigmatized for having a high prevalence of
disability. Kathleen Woodward, writing in Key Words for Disability
Studies, explains the phenomenon as follows:
Aging is invoked rhetorically—at times ominously—as a pressing
reason why disability should be of crucial interest to all of us (we
are all getting older, we will all be disabled eventually), thereby
inadvertently reinforcing the damaging and dominant stereotype of
aging as solely an experience of decline and deterioration. But little
attention has been given to the imbrication of aging and
As stated above, studies have illustrated a correlation between
disabilities and poverty. Notably, jobs offered to disabled people are
scarce. For global demographic data on unemployment rates for the
Disability and poverty. However, there are current
programs in place that aid intellectually disabled (ID) people to
acquire skills they need in the workforce. Such programs include
sheltered workshops and adult day care programs. Sheltered programs
consist of daytime activities such as, gardening, manufacturing, and
assembling. These activities facilitate routine-oriented tasks that in
turn allow intellectually disabled people to gain experience before
entering the workforce. Similarly, adult day care programs also
include day time activities. However, these activities are based in an
educational environment where intellectually disabled are able to
engage in educational, physical, and communication based tasks. This
educational based environment helps facilitate communication, memory,
and general living skills. In addition, adult day care programs
arrange opportunities for their students to engage in community
activities. Such opportunities are arranged by scheduling field trips
to public places (i.e. Disneyland, Zoo, and Movie Theater). Despite,
both programs providing essential skills for intellectually disabled
prior to entering the workforce researchers have found that
intellectually disabled people prefer to be involved with
community-integrated employment. Community-integrated employment
are job opportunities offered to intellectually disabled people at
minimum wage or a higher rate depending on the position.
Community-integrated employment comes in a variety of occupations
ranging from customer service, clerical, janitorial, hospitality and
manufacturing positions. Within their daily tasks community-integrated
employees work alongside employees who do not have disabilities, but
who are able to assist them with training. All three options allow
intellectually disabled people to develop and exercise social skills
that are vital to everyday life. However, it is not guaranteed that
community-integrated employees receive the same treatment as employees
that do not have ID. According to Lindstrom, Hirano, McCarthy, and
Alverson, community-integrated employees are less likely to receiving
raises. In addition, studies conducted in 2013 illustrated only 26% of
employees with ID retained full-time status.
Furthermore, many with disabilities, intellectual and (or) psychical,
finding a stable workforce poses many challenges. According to a study
conducted by JARID (Journal of Applied Research and Intellectual
Disability, indicates that although finding a job may be difficult for
an intellectually disabled individual, stabilizing a job is even
harder. This is largely due to two main factors: production skills
and effective social skills. This idea is supported by Chadsey-Rusch
who claims that securing employment for the intellectually disabled,
requires adequate production skills and effective social skills.
However, other underlying factors for job loss include, structural
factors and the integration between worker and workplace. As stated by
Kilsby, limited structural factors can effect a multitude of factors
in a job. Factors such as a restricted number of hours an
intellectually disabled person is allowed to work. This in return
according to Fabian, Wistow, and Schneider leads to a lack of
opportunity to develop relationships with coworkers and a chance to
better integrate within the workplace. Nevertheless, those who are
unable to stabilize a job often are left discouraged. According to the
same study conducted by JARED, many who had participated, found that
they had made smaller incomes when compared to their co-workers, had
an excess of time throughout their days, because they did not have
work. They also, had feelings of hopelessness and failure. According
to the NOD ( National Organization On Disability), not only do the
(ID) face constant discouragement but many live below the poverty
line, because they are unable to find or stabilize employment and (or)
because of employee restricting factors placed on ID workers. This
then causes the (ID) the incapacity to provide for themselves basic
necessities one needs. Items such as, food, medical care,
transportation, and housing.
The Cripples, Pieter Bruegel, 1568
There is a global correlation between disability and poverty, produced
by a variety of factors.
Disability and poverty
Disability and poverty may form a vicious
circle, in which physical barriers and stigma of disability make it
more difficult to get income, which in turn diminishes access to
health care and other necessities for a healthy life. The World
report on disability indicates that half of all disabled people cannot
afford health care, compared to a third of abled people. In
countries without public services for adults with disabilities, their
families may be impoverished.
Disability and disasters
There is limited research knowledge, but many anecdotal reports, on
what happens when disasters impact disabled people.
Individuals with disabilities are greatly affected by
disasters. Those with physical disabilities can be at risk
when evacuating if assistance is not available. Individuals with
cognitive impairments may struggle with understanding instructions
that must be followed in the event a disaster occurs. All
of these factors can increase the degree of variation of risk in
disaster situations with disabled individuals.
Research studies have consistently found discrimination against
individuals with disabilities during all phases of a disaster
cycle. The most common limitation is that people cannot physically
access buildings or transportation, as well as access disaster-related
services. The exclusion of these individuals is caused in part by
the lack of disability-related training provided to emergency planners
and disaster relief personnel.
The International Classification of Functioning,
Disability and Health
(ICF), produced by the World Health Organization, distinguishes
between body functions (physiological or psychological, such as
vision) and body structures (anatomical parts, such as the eye and
related structures). Impairment in bodily structure or function is
defined as involving an anomaly, defect, loss or other significant
deviation from certain generally accepted population standards, which
may fluctuate over time. Activity is defined as the execution of a
task or action. The ICF lists 9 broad domains of functioning which can
Learning and applying knowledge
General tasks and demands
Basic physical mobility, Domestic life, and Self-care (for example,
activities of daily living)
Interpersonal interactions and relationships
Community, social and civic life, including employment
Other major life areas
In concert with disability scholars, the introduction to the ICF
states that a variety of conceptual models has been proposed to
understand and explain disability and functioning, which it seeks to
integrate. These models include the following:
Medical model of disability
The medical model views disability as a problem of the person,
directly caused by disease, trauma, or other health conditions which
therefore requires sustained medical care in the form of individual
treatment by professionals. In the medical model, management of the
disability is aimed at a "cure", or the individual’s adjustment and
behavioral change that would lead to an "almost-cure" or effective
cure. In the medical model, medical care is viewed as the main issue,
and at the political level, the principal response is that of
modifying or reforming healthcare policy.
Main article: Social model of disability
The social model of disability sees "disability" as a socially created
problem and a matter of the full integration of individuals into
society. In this model, disability is not an attribute of an
individual, but rather a complex collection of conditions, created by
the social environment. The management of the problem requires social
action and it is the collective responsibility of society to create a
society in which limitations for disabled people are minimal.
Disability is both cultural and ideological in creation. According to
the social model, equal access for someone with an
impairment/disability is a human rights concern. The social
model of disability has come under criticism. While recognizing the
importance played by the social model in stressing the responsibility
of society, scholars, including Tom Shakespeare, point out the limits
of the model, and urge the need for a new model that will overcome the
"medical vs. social" dichotomy.
Some say medical humanities is a fruitful field where the gap between
the medical and the social model of disability might be bridged.
The social construction of disability is the idea that disability is
constructed by social expectations and institutions rather than
biological differences. Highlighting the ways society and institutions
construct disability is one of the main focuses of this idea. In
the same way that race and gender are not biologically fixed, neither
Around the early 1970s, sociologists, notably Eliot Friedson, began to
argue that labeling theory and social deviance could be applied to
disability studies. This led to the creation of the social
construction of disability theory. The social construction of
disability is the idea that disability is constructed as the social
response to a deviance from the norm. The medical industry is the
creator of the ill and disabled social role. Medical professionals and
institutions, who wield expertise over health, have the ability to
define health and physical and mental norms. When an individual has a
feature that creates an impairment, restriction, or limitation from
reaching the social definition of health, the individual is labeled as
disabled. Under this idea, disability is not defined by the physical
features of the body but by a deviance from the social convention of
Social construction of disability would argue that the medical model
of disability's view that a disability is an impairment, restriction,
or limitation is wrong. Instead what is seen as a disability is just a
difference in the individual from what is considered "normal" in
The spectrum model refers to the range of audibility, sensibility, and
visibility under which people function. The model asserts that
disability does not necessarily mean reduced spectrum of operations.
Rather, disability is often defined according to thresholds set on a
continuum of disability.
The moral model refers to the attitude that people are morally
responsible for their own disability. For example, disability may
be seen as a result of bad actions of parents if congenital, or as a
result of practicing witchcraft if not. Echoes of this can be seen
in the doctrine of karma in Indian religions. It also includes notions
that a disability gives a person "special abilities to perceive,
reflect, transcend, be spiritual".
The expert/professional model has provided a traditional response to
disability issues and can be seen as an offshoot of the medical model.
Within its framework, professionals follow a process of identifying
the impairment and its limitations (using the medical model), and
taking the necessary action to improve the position of the disabled
person. This has tended to produce a system in which an authoritarian,
over-active service provider prescribes and acts for a passive
The tragedy/charity model depicts disabled people as victims of
circumstance who are deserving of pity. This, along with the medical
model, are the models most used by non-disabled people to define and
The legitimacy model views disability as a value-based determination
about which explanations for the atypical are legitimate for
membership in the disability category. This viewpoint allows for
multiple explanations and models to be considered as purposive and
The social adapted model states although a person’s disability poses
some limitations in an able-bodied society, often the surrounding
society and environment are more limiting than the disability
The economic model defines disability in terms of reduced ability to
work, the related loss of productivity and economic effects on the
individual, employer and society in general.
The empowering model (also, customer model) allows for the person with
a disability and his/her family to decide the course of his/her
treatment. This turns the professional into a service provider whose
role is to offer guidance and carry out the client’s decisions. This
model "empowers" the individual to pursue his/her own goals.
The market model of disability is minority rights and consumerist
model of disability that recognizing disabled people and their
stakeholders as representing a large group of consumers, employees and
voters. This model looks to personal identity to define disability and
empowers people to chart their own destiny in everyday life, with a
particular focus on economic empowerment. By this model, based on US
Census data, there are 1.2 billion people in the world who consider
themselves to have a disability. "This model states that, due to the
size of the demographic, companies and governments will serve the
desires, pushed by demand as the message becomes prevalent in the
The consumer model of disability is based upon the “rights-based"
model and claims that disabled people should have equal rights and
access to products, goods and services offered by businesses. The
consumer model extends the rights-based model by proposing that
businesses, not only accommodate customers with disabilities under the
requirements of legislation, but that businesses actively seek, market
to, welcome and fully engage disabled people in all aspects of
business service activities. The model suggests that all business
operations, for example websites, policies and procedures, mission
statements, emergency plans, programs and services, should integrate
access and inclusion practices. Furthermore, these access and
inclusion practices should be based on established customer service
access and inclusion standards that embrace and support the active
engagement of people of all abilities in business offerings.
Different theories revolve around prejudice, stereotyping,
discrimination, and stigma related to disability. One of the more
popular ones, as put by Weiner, Perry, and Magnusson 's (1988) work
with attribution theory, physical stigmas are perceived as to be
un-controllable and elicit pity and desire to help, whereas,
mental-behavioral stigmas are considered to be controllable and
therefore elicit anger and desire to neglect the individuals with
The ‘just world hypothesis’ talks about how a person is viewed as
deserving the disability. And because it is the fault of that person,
an observer does not feel obligated to feel bad for him or to help
In contexts where their differences are visible, persons with
disabilities often face stigma. People frequently react to disabled
presence with fear, pity, patronization, intrusive gazes, revulsion,
or disregard. These reactions can, and often do, exclude persons with
disabilities from accessing social spaces along with the benefits and
resources these spaces provide. Disabled writer/researcher Jenny
Morris describes how stigma functions to marginalize persons with
“Going out in public so often takes courage. How many of us find
that we can't dredge up the strength to do it day after day, week
after week, year after year, a lifetime of rejection and revulsion? It
is not only physical limitations that restrict us to our homes and
those whom we know. It is the knowledge that each entry into the
public world will be dominated by stares, by condescension, by pity
and by hostility.”
Additionally, facing stigma can cause harm to psycho-emotional
well-being of the person being stigmatized. One of the ways in which
the psycho-emotional health of persons with disabilities is adversely
affected is through the internalization of the oppression they
experience, which can lead to feeling that they are weak, crazy,
worthless, or any number of other negative attributes that may be
associated with their conditions. Internalization of oppression
damages the self-esteem of the person affected and shapes their
behaviors in ways that are compliant with nondisabled dominance.
Ableist ideas are frequently internalized when disabled people are
pressured by the people and institutions around them to hide and
downplay their disabled difference, or, "pass". According to writer
Simi Linton, the act of passing takes a deep emotional toll by causing
disabled individuals to experience loss of community, anxiety and
self-doubt. The media play a significant role in creating and
reinforcing stigma associated with disability. Media portrayals of
disability usually cast disabled presence as necessarily marginal
within society at large. These portrayals simultaneously reflect and
influence popular perception of disabled difference.
Disability in the media
There are distinct tactics that the media frequently employ in
representing disabled presence. These common ways of framing
disability are heavily criticized for being dehumanizing and failing
to place importance on the perspectives of persons with disabilities.
Inspiration porn refers to portrayals of persons with disabilities in
which they are presented as being inspiring simply because the person
has a disability. These portrayals are criticized because they are
created with the intent of making able-bodied viewers feel better
about themselves in comparison to the individual portrayed. Rather
than recognizing the humanity of persons with disabilities,
inspiration porn turns them into objects of inspiration for a
The supercrip trope refers to instances when media reports on or
portray a disabled person who has made a noteworthy achievement; but
center on their disability rather than what they actually did. They
are portrayed as awe-inspiring for being exceptional compared to
others with the same or similar conditions. This trope is widely used
in reporting on disabled athletes as well as in portrayals of autistic
Many disabled people denounce these representations as reducing people
to their condition rather than viewing them as full people.
Furthermore, supercrip portrayals are criticized for creating the
unrealistic expectation that disability should be accompanied by some
type of special talent, genius, or insight.
Characters in fiction that bear physical or mental markers of
difference from perceived societal norms are frequently positioned as
villains within a text. Lindsey Row-Heyveld notes, for instance,
“that villainous pirates are scraggly, wizened, and inevitably
kitted out with a peg leg, eye patch, or hook hand whereas heroic
pirates look like Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow.” Disabled people's
visible differences from the abled majority is meant to evoke fear in
audiences that can perpetuate the mindset of disabled people being a
threat to individual or public interests and well-being.
Some disabled people have attempted to resist marginalisation through
the use of the social model in opposition to the medical model; with
the aim of shifting criticism away from their bodies and impairments
and towards the social institutions that oppress them relative to
their abled peers.
Disability activism that demands many grievances be
addressed, such as lack of accessibility, poor representation in
media, general disrespect, and lack of recognition, originates from a
social model framework.
Embracing disability as a positive identity by becoming involved in
disabled communities and participating in disabled culture can be an
effective way to combat internalised prejudice; and can challenge
dominant narratives about disability.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February
The experiences that disabled people have navigating social
institutions vary greatly as a function of what other social
categories they may belong to. The categories that intersect with
disability to create unique experiences of ableism include, but
aren’t limited to, race and gender.
Disabled people who are also racial minorities generally have less
access to support and are more vulnerable to violent discrimination.
For example, in the United States people of color who are mentally ill
are more frequently victims of police brutality than their white
counterparts. Camille A. Nelson, writing for the Berkeley Journal of
Criminal Law, notes that for “people who are negatively racialized,
that is people who are perceived as being non-white, and for whom
mental illness is either known or assumed, interaction with police is
precarious and potentially dangerous.”
The marginalization of disabled people can leave persons with
disabilities unable to actualize what society expects of gendered
existence. This lack of recognition for their gender identity can
leave persons with disabilities with feelings of inadequacy. Thomas J.
Gerschick of Illinois State University describes why this denial of
gendered identity occurs:
"Bodies operate socially as canvases on which gender is displayed and
kinesthetically as the mechanisms by which it is physically enacted.
Thus, the bodies of disabled people make them vulnerable to being
denied recognition as women and men."
To the extent that women and men with disabilities are gendered, the
interactions of these two identities lead to different experiences.
Disabled women face a sort of “double stigmatization” in which
their membership to both of these marginalized categories
simultaneously exacerbates the negative stereotypes associated with
each as they are ascribed to them. According to The UN Woman Watch,
"Persistence of certain cultural, legal and institutional barriers
makes women and girls with disabilities the victims of two-fold
discrimination: as women and as persons with disabilities." As
Rosemarie Garland-Thomson puts it, “Women with disabilities, even
more intensely than women in general, have been cast in the collective
cultural imagination as inferior, lacking, excessive, incapable,
unfit, and useless.”
Main article: Assistive technology
Assistive Technology is a generic term for devices and modifications
(for a person or within a society) that help overcome or remove a
disability. The first recorded example of the use of a prosthesis
dates to at least 1800 BC. The wheelchair dates from the 17th
century. The curb cut is a related structural innovation. Other
examples are standing frames, text telephones, accessible keyboards,
large print, Braille, & speech recognition software. Disabled
people often develop personal or community adaptations, such as
strategies to suppress tics in public (for example in Tourette's
syndrome), or sign language in deaf communities.
As the personal computer has become more ubiquitous, various
organizations have formed to develop software and hardware to make
computers more accessible for disabled people. Some software and
hardware, such as Voice Finger, Freedom Scientific's JAWS, the Free
and Open Source alternative Orca etc. have been specifically designed
for disabled people while other software and hardware, such as
Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking, were not developed specifically for
disabled people, but can be used to increase accessibility. The
LOMAK keyboard was designed in
New Zealand specifically for persons
with disabilities. The World Wide Web consortium recognised a need
for International Standards for Web
Accessibility for persons with
disabilities and created the Web
Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
As at Dec 2012 the standard is WCAG 2.0 (WCAG = Web Content
Main article: Disabled sports
Wheelchair basketball match between South Africa and Iran at the 2008
Paralympic Games (meaning "alongside the Olympics") are held after
the (Summer and Winter) Olympics. The
Paralympic Games include
athletes with a wide range of physical disabilities. In member
countries organizations exist to organize competition in the
Paralympic sports on levels ranging from recreational to elite (for
Disabled Sports USA
Disabled Sports USA and
BlazeSports America in the United
The Paralympics developed from a rehabilitation programme for British
war veterans with spinal injuries. In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttman, a
neurologist working with World War II veterans with spinal injuries at
Stoke Mandeville Hospital
Stoke Mandeville Hospital in
Aylesbury in the UK, began using sport as
part of the rehabilitation programmes of his patients.
In 2006, the Extremity Games was formed for physically disabled
people, specifically limb loss or limb difference, to be able to
compete in extreme sports.
Rights and government policies
Main article: Ableism
Disability rights movement
The disability rights movement aims to secure equal opportunities and
equal rights for disabled people. The specific goals and demands of
the movement are accessibility and safety in transportation,
architecture, and the physical environment; equal opportunities in
independent living, employment, education, and housing; and freedom
from abuse, neglect, and violations of patients' rights. Effective
civil rights legislation is sought to secure these opportunities and
The early disability rights movement was dominated by the medical
model of disability, where emphasis was placed on curing or treating
disabled people so that they would adhere to the social norm, but
starting in the 1960s, rights groups began shifting to the social
model of disability, where disability is interpreted as an issue of
discrimination, thereby paving the way for rights groups to achieve
equality through legal means.
Policies and actions
Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities
On December 13, 2006, the
United Nations formally agreed on the
Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first human
rights treaty of the 21st century, to protect and enhance the rights
and opportunities of the world's estimated 650 million disabled
people. As of April 2011, 99 of the 147 signatories had ratified
the Convention. Countries that sign the convention are required to
adopt national laws, and remove old ones, so that persons with
disabilities will, for example, have equal rights to education,
employment, and cultural life; to the right to own and inherit
property; to not be discriminated against in marriage, etc.; and to
not be unwilling subjects in medical experiments. UN officials,
including the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have characterized
the bill as representing a paradigm shift in attitudes toward a more
rights-based view of disability in line with the social model.
International Year of Disabled Persons
In 1976, the
United Nations began planning for its International Year
for Disabled Persons (1981), later renamed the International Year
of Disabled Persons. The UN Decade of Disabled Persons (1983–1993)
featured a World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons. In
Frank Bowe was the only person with a disability representing
any country in the planning of IYDP-1981. Today, many countries have
named representatives who are themselves individuals with
disabilities. The decade was closed in an address before the General
Assembly by Robert Davila. Both Bowe and Davila are deaf. In 1984,
UNESCO accepted sign language for use in education of deaf children
Policies in the United States
In the United States, the Department of Labor's 2014 rules for federal
contractors, defined as companies that make more than $50,000/year
from the federal government, required them to have as a goal that 7%
of their workforce must be disabled people. In schools, the ADA
says that all classrooms must be wheelchair accessible. The U.S.
Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, commonly
referred to as the Access Board, created the Rehabilitation Act of
1973 to help offer guidelines for transportation and accessibility for
the physically disabled.
About 12.6% of the U.S. population are individuals who suffer from a
mental or physical disability. Many are unemployed because of
prejudiced assumptions that a person with disabilities is unable to
complete tasks that are commonly required in the workforce. This
became a major
Human rights issue because of the discrimination that
this group faced when trying to apply for jobs in the U.S. Many
advocacy groups protested against such discrimination, asking the
federal government to implement laws and policies that would help
individuals with disabilities.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was enacted with the purpose of
protecting individuals with disabilities from prejudicial treatment by
government funded programs, employers, and agencies. The
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has not only helped protect U.S. citizens
from being discriminated against but it has also created confidence
amongst individuals to feel more comfortable with their disability.
There are many sections within The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, that
contains detailed information about what is covered in this policy.
An employer must hire an individual who meets the qualifications of a
job description despite any preexisting disabilities.
Requires contractors or subcontractors, who receive more than $10,000
from the government to hire people with disabilities and to
accommodate them with the needs that they need to achieve in the work
States that receive federal money may not discriminate against any
person with disabilities who qualifies for a program or job.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
The federal government enacted The Americans with Disabilities Act of
1990, which was created to allow equal opportunity for jobs, access to
private and government funded facilities, and transportation for
disabled people. This act was created with the purpose to ensure that
employers would not discriminate against any individual despite their
disability. In 1990, data was gathered to show the percentage of
disabled people who worked in the U.S. Out of the 13% who filled out
the survey, only 53% percent of individuals with disabilities worked
while 90% of this group population did not, the government wanted to
change this, they wanted Americans with disabilities to have the same
opportunities as those who did not have a disability. The ADA not only
required corporations to hire disabled people but that they also
accommodate them and their needs.
An employer must give a qualified individual with disabilities the
same opportunities as any other employee despite their disability. The
employer must offer equal work privileges to some one who has a
disability including but not limited to pay, work hours, training,
etc. The employer must also create accommodations suitable for the
person and their physical or mental disabilities.
State and Local Government Activities
Requires that the government give disabled people the same
opportunities involving work, programs, building access, and services.
Title II also requires that buildings create easy access for disabled
people and provide communicators who will able to help those with
hearing or speaking impairments. Public spaces are however not
required to create accommodations that would in turn alter their
services as long as the services proved that they did all they could
to prevent discrimination against disabled people.f
Public transportation should be customized so that disabled people may
have easy access to public transit.
Paratransit is a service that
provides transportation to people who are unable to get from one
destination to another due to their mental or physical disability.
Public accommodations require that private businesses create
accommodations that will allow disabled people easy access to
buildings. Private businesses may not discriminate against disabled
people and must provide accommodations that are reasonable,
alterations may be made so that a person with disabilities can have
equal access to facilities that are provided, communicators for the
hearing impaired, devices for the visually impaired, and wheelchair
access. Facilities must regulate with the ADA, when regulating the
buildings infrastructure so it meets the ADA regulations.
Telecommunication Relay Services
Requires telephone companies to have TRS seven days a week, twenty
four hours a day. It requires telephone companies to create
accommodations for deaf/hard of hearing people by providing a third
party that will be able to assistant both parties in communicating
with one another.
Policies in the United Kingdom
In the UK, the Department for Work and Pension is a government
department responsible for promoting disability awareness and among
its aims is to increase the understanding of disability and removal of
barriers for disabled people in the workplace. According to a news
report, a people survey conducted in the UK shows a 23% increase in
reported discrimination and harassment in the workplace at The
Department for Work and Pension. The survey shows the number of
reports for discrimination due to disability was in majority compared
to discrimination due to gender, ethnicity or age. DWP received
criticism for the survey results. As a department responsible for
tackling discrimination at work, the DWP results may indicate room for
improvement from within. A DWP spokesperson said the survey results do
not necessarily indicate an increase in the number of reports, but
rather reflecting the outcomes of efforts to encourage people to come
Policies in Japan
Disability policy in Japan
Policies in Sweden
Disability policy in Sweden
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A 28-year-old Iraqi woman who lost both of her legs during the Iraq
War in 2005
Political rights, social inclusion and citizenship have come to the
fore in developed and some developing countries. The debate has moved
beyond a concern about the perceived cost of maintaining dependent
disabled people to finding effective ways to ensure that disabled
people can participate in and contribute to society in all spheres of
In developing nations, where the vast bulk of the estimated 650
million disabled people reside, a great deal of work is needed to
address concerns ranging from accessibility and education to
self-empowerment, self-supporting employment, and beyond.
In the past few years, disability rights activists have focused on
obtaining full citizenship for the disabled.
There are obstacles in some countries in getting full employment;
public perception of disabled people may vary.
Disability abuse happens when a person is abused physically,
financially, verbally or mentally due to the person having a
disability. As many disabilities are not visible (for example, asthma,
learning disabilities) some abusers cannot rationalize the
non-physical disability with a need for understanding, support, and so
As the prevalence of disability and the cost of supporting disability
increases with medical advancement and longevity in general, this
aspect of society becomes of greater political importance. How
political parties treat their disabled constituents may become a
measure of a political party's understanding of disability,
particularly in the social model of disability.
Disability benefit, or disability pension, is a major kind of
disability insurance that is provided by government agencies to people
who are temporarily or permanently unable to work due to a disability.
In the U.S., disability benefit is provided in the category of
Supplemental Security Income. In Canada, it is within the Canada
Pension Plan. In other countries, disability benefit may be provided
under social security systems.
Costs of disability pensions are steadily growing in Western
countries, mainly in Europe and the United States. It was reported
that, in the UK, expenditure on disability pensions accounted for 0.9%
of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1980; two decades later it had
reached 2.6% of GDP. Several studies have reported a link
between increased absence from work due to sickness and elevated risk
of future disability pension.
A study by researchers in Denmark suggests that information on
self-reported days of absence due to sickness can be used to
effectively identify future potential groups for disability
pension. These studies may provide useful information for policy
makers, case managing authorities, employers, and physicians.
Private, for-profit disability insurance plays a role in providing
incomes to disabled people, but the nationalized programs are the
safety net that catch most claimants.
Estimates of worldwide and country-wide numbers of individuals with
disabilities are problematic. The varying approaches taken to defining
disability notwithstanding, demographers agree that the world
population of individuals with disabilities is very large. For
example, in 2012, the
World Health Organization
World Health Organization estimated a world
population of 6.5 billion people. Of those, nearly 650 million people,
or 10%, were estimated to be moderately or severely disabled.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2010, there were some 56.7
million disabled people, or 19% (by comparison, African Americans are
the largest racial minority in the U.S., but only constitute 12.6% of
the U.S. population).
Disabled individuals make up one of the most inclusive minority groups
in the United States. According to the 2014
report of the Cornell University Yang Tan Institute the prevalence
rate of individuals with disabilities in the United States was 12.6%
in that year. As of 2014 ambulatory disability had the highest
prevalence (7.1%) in the United States. By contrast, visual disability
had the lowest prevalence (2.3%). Additionally, 3.6% of people in the
United States were reported to have had an auditory disability in the
5.8% of individuals ages 16–20 reported having any disability,
physical and/ or cognitive. Adults 21 to 64 had a prevalence of 10.8%
with over half of these (5.5%) being ambulatory disabilities.
Ambulatory disability prevalence raised to 15.8% in adults 65–74
years of age. Adults 75 years and older comprised the highest
prevalence with any disability at 50.3%.
Female individuals across all ages reported a total 0.4% higher
prevalence rate than males who reported 12.4%.
In the U.S. 17.9% of Native American peoples reported having a
disability while 4.5% reporting were of Asian descent, these were the
two opposing poles of the prevalence rate within race as of 2014.
Although there are acts that have been imposed in order to prevent the
discrimination of individuals with disabilities in the workplace,
there is still an employment gap that can be seen between those with
and without disabilities. In regards to employment the institute’s
status report accounts that 34.6% of people with any disability
reported being employed. By comparison; 77.6% of individuals, who did
not report having a disability, reported having a full-time job in
For those employed full-time, individuals with disabilities on average
earned $5,100 less than employees without a disability who were also
employed full-time. Those affected the most by these differences were
intellectually disabled people.
There is widespread agreement among experts[who?] in the field that
disability is more common in developing than in developed nations. The
connection between disability and poverty is thought to be part of a
"vicious cycle" in which these constructs are mutually
Nearly 8 million European men were permanently disabled in World War
I. About 150,000 Vietnam veterans came home wounded, and at least
21,000 were permanently disabled. As of 2008, there were 2.9
million disabled veterans in the United States, an increase of 25
percent over 2001.
After years of war in Afghanistan, there are more than 1 million
disabled people. Afghanistan has one of the highest incidences of
disabled people in the world. An estimated 80,000 Afghans are
missing limbs, usually from landmine explosions.
In Australia, 18.5% of the population reported having a disability in
a 2009 survey.
Physiological functional capacity
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