From DisabilityWiki

Disability is a term that generally refers to impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions that individuals may experience in their daily lives.[1]

Impairments are problems in body function or alterations in body structure, such as paralysis or blindness. Activity limitations are difficulties encountered when executing activities, such as mobility difficulties. Lastly, participation restrictions are problems experienced in life situations, such as employment discrimination or barriers to education.

What percent of the world has a disability? Approximately 1.3 billion (or 1 out of 6) people have a significant significant disability. This represents 16% of the world's population. And many of these people have multiple disabilities.[2]


The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF), published by the WHO, is the most widely accepted classification system.[3] The ICF views disability as a dynamic interaction between a person’s health conditions and contextual factors (both personal and environmental).[4]

Disability Categories[edit]

Disability Categories are a method of classifying the different forms and types of disabilities. They include physical, sensory, mental health, intellectual, and learning disabilities. Understanding these categories can facilitate the development of individualized accommodations and resources, to promote inclusivity and equal participation for people with all types of disabilities.

Physical Disability[edit]

Physical disabilities, one of the most well-known categories, encompass a variety of conditions that may impede the physical functioning of an individual. This can include mobility limitations, dexterity issues, or chronic health conditions that affect stamina. Some examples include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and conditions caused by muscular and skeletal abnormalities.

Sensory Disability[edit]

Sensory disabilities impact one or more senses such as vision, hearing, touch, taste, or smell. Examples of sensory disabilities include blindness, deafness, and conditions like Autism Spectrum Disorder, which can affect sensory processing.

Mental Health Disability[edit]

Mental health disabilities encompass a broad spectrum of conditions that may impact a person’s thinking, mood and behavior, including bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[5]

Intellectual Disability[edit]

Intellectual Disability is characterized by limitations in both intellectual functioning (such as learning, problem-solving and reasoning) and adaptive behavior. Down Syndrome and Fragile X syndrome are examples of conditions that can cause intellectual disabilities.[6]

Learning Disability[edit]

Learning disabilities are a group of neurological disorders that cause difficulties in learning specific skills such as reading, writing, or math. They include conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Understanding the different categories of disability allows for the development of tailored support systems, and aids in creating an inclusive environment for everyone regardless of their abilities.

Social Perspectives[edit]

The social model of disability suggests that disability is not an attribute of an individual, but rather a complex collection of conditions, created by the social environment. This model focuses on removing barriers within society that limit an individual's participation, rather than correcting what is perceived as 'wrong' with the individual.

Recent Advancements[edit]

In recent years, advancements in digital technology have contributed to broadening the understanding of disability, as well as offering more opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Technology such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, assistive robots, and virtual reality have revolutionized how people with disabilities navigate their everyday lives.[7]


While the definition and understanding of disability have evolved over time, the underlying goal remains the same: to ensure the full and equal participation of all individuals in society.

See Also[edit]


  1. World Health Organization. (2019). "Disability." WHO
  2. World Health Organization. (2019). "Disability." WHO
  3. World Health Organization. (2018). "ICF - International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health." WHO
  4. World Health Organization. (2020). "Towards a Common Language for Functioning, Disability, and Health." WHO
  5. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2022). "Mental Health Conditions." NAMI
  6. American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. (2019). "Definition of Intellectual Disability." AAIDD
  7. ASHA. "Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)." ASHA