Disability Definition (Why Defining One Word Is So Difficult)

Disability definitions are complicated to develop and lack comprehensiveness. A comprehensive disability definitnition is impossible for several reasons, including disagreement about the severity and type of limitations that make a person disabled, and the fact that people view their limitations and abilities in different ways.. The list below concisely shows some reasons which make a single disability definition not rather impossible.

1) Various types of disabilities exist (i.e. physical, mental, cognitive, psychological). Defining all these groups with one statement is very difficult.
2) Disabled people, even with the same diagnosis, are not always limited in the exact same activities.
3) People vary in ways they adapt to adapt to their condition and perform life activities.
4) Disabled people, even with the same condition, do not always identify under the same label.
5) Individuals considered disabled under one definition may not be considered disabled under a different definition.

Defining a Disability Under the 1973 Rehabilitation Act

The main goal of the Act was to integrate disabled people with the outside society via higher employment rates and accessible communities, The 1973 Act used the term "handicapped" as opposed to the term "disabled." A handicapped individual under this legislative Act was classified as:

"... any individual who (A) has a physical or mental disability which for such individual constitutes or results in a substantial handicap to employment and (B) can reasonably be expected to benefit in terms of employability from vocational REHABILITATION services..."

Because the goal of the above legislation centered on increasing job training and jobs for to the disabled group, the term handicapped was defined in relation to how a disability affected one's job capability, including integration in a workplace.

Progressive Disability Definitions Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

There were many significant changes in the way the ADA defines disabled. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person is considered disabled if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

a) A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; b) A record of such an impairment; or c) Being regarded as having such impairment.

Because the goal of the ADA was to make public and commercial places more accessible to disabled persons, it is obvious that the term "disabled" must have an extensive range. ADA Amendments, discussed below, note reasons why it is crucial that the ADA definition must be specific, while cover a broad scope of disabilities.

Definition Used by U.S. Census Bureau

The definition of disability used by the U.S. Census Bureau focuses on an individual's ability to perform activities of daily life, such as eating and performing tasks around the home. The use of assistive equipment or difficulty performing task of daily life qualifies a persona s disabled.

As an illustration, under the U.S. Census Bureau definition, a sixty year old male using a cane for travelling around, is classified as a disabled person. Though, this gentleman doesn't classify himself as a disabled person. He rather sees needing a cane as an element of aging. Considering the cane isn't affecting job performance as a secretary, the older gentleman has no clue as to why others categorize him as having a disability. This scenario illustrates how a person's view of assistive equipment is affected by use of equipment by peers. The gentleman may even think the cane makes him look classy. The senior man in this case views use of the assistive cane as a part of aging, rather than an aspect of becoming disabled. The man's view of having a disability is closely related with his ability to perform his job illustrating how people may base personal classifications of a disability on the capability to do their job.

The multiple definitions used by the federal government may create some confusion when trying to define the term disabled. However, the above definitions illustrate the key point of this article: A universal definition which encompasses all disabilities is impractical. When trying to define what disabled means, first consider the purpose and scope of the definition you need. See the disability definition in the case study, to further examine considerations of the term disabled.

This article was published by
Kassie Love
Writer & Founder,
Labelosophy Blog--Empowering the Disabled

Published At: Disability Definition (Why Defining One Word Is So Difficult)