Definition of Disability
Disability is a critical social-spatial issue (Golledge, 1993). An attempt to define what disability is, will leave us with different point of views as a result of it complex nature. Different academic scholar, government agencies, international communities and disabled people’s organisation has tried to underscore the suitable and functional definition of disability through an underlying and critique approaches. Despite many attempts to define disability in an encompassing terms, the challenges remains what depict an individual as disabled and who should belong to this class?
Geiecker, Otto, Momm and Willi (2001), stated that lot of people probably knows what disability is all about. They could be able to recognise an individual as being disabled, either as a result of the disability being visible or because they are aware of a particular medical condition that lends itself to be called disability. There are different views to the concept and definitions of disability, a common view is that having disability makes an individual less capable of performing variety of activities. (Geiecker et al.). However, what exactly the term disability means is less easy to ascertain.
In defining what disability means, it is important to try to understand what disability means to people. In doing so, we tend to effectively establish the different approaches to define disability as suggested by Drum (2014) in the journal of Dynamic of Disability and Chronic Condition. Drum attempted to define disability by using three basic approaches to explain what disability thus mean. He states that in the last three decades, this three basic approaches has always been used- diagnostic, functional or social approaches. The diagnostic glide path stresses an individual inherent trauma, disease or health related impairment. For instance a spinal cord or loss of limb trauma is a disability under this approach. The functional approach is when a person with a spinal cord or loss of limb trauma is ineffectual to live freely from external control and constraint and the view of social approach concentrates on the obstacles a person contend with when interacting with the environment.
It may seem strange that there are still so many dispute relating to given an explicit definition to disability, so many years after the passage of different disability Acts and Laws, emerging scores of disabled people’s movement and disability discourse globally. It is understandable when one looks at the definite interconnections of terms pertaining to disability without an attempt of circumventing. Following Mike Oliver (1996) I contend that a generally accepted definition of disability may be impossible. There have been various attempt to provide and develop a conceptual schema to define and expatiate the concept of disability with relationship between illness, impairment and handicap, this has led to the adoption of different definition of disability.
The WHO International Classification of Impairment, Disability and Handicap describes disability in the context of health experiences as ‘any restriction or lack (resulting from impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal to a human being’ (Wood, 1980), the Unions of the Physical Impaired Against Segregation(UPIAS) see disability as ‘the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes no or little account of people who have physical impairment and thus excludes them from the main streams of social activities’ (UPIAS, 1976),the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(UNCRPD)uses the following definition: ‘persons with disabilities include those that have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with other'(UNCRPD, 1993)while the Disabled People’s International which encompasses the disabled people themselves defines disability as ‘ the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due to physical and social barriers’ (DPI, 1982).
According to different approaches and definitions to disability stated above. I might be unable to define disability precisely. In agglutinating the different point of views to the definition of disability, I can presumably in appropriation for this research work align with the definition of the disabled people’s organisation, DPI (1982) and borrowing from Cameron (2008) tentative ‘affirmative model” of disability definitions. Disability can therefore be infer as deprivation or limitation of opportunities to take part in community life on an equal level with others due to physical and social barriers.
Furthermore, it is a social issue which relies on the action between the society (The society here refer to the physical environment) and attitudinal behavioural of the citizenry. It is not just impute of the individual but a reciprocal action between the person, his or her environment and the attitudinal behavioural of the ‘normal’ people. The term disability can also be referred to as a rule used to designate reduction or deviation from the norm. A shortcoming of an individual that society has to reckon with (Geiecker et al., 2001).An individual may experience disability as something that sets him or her from others and that has a negative impact on the way life is organised.
2.2. Distinguishing between Impairment and Disability (Can Impairment be disassociated from Disability?)
Disabled scholars, social writer and medical professionals have at various disability discourse tried to provide and develop a conceptual schema to define and expatiate the term disability with relationship between ill-ness, impairment and handicap (Oliver, 1996).The concepts of impairment and disability are two cardinal concepts that needs to be separated. Varsey (1992) stated that collectivising the experiences of impairment is a much more difficult task to collectivising the experiences of disability. Often time, the two terms are used interchangeably but the distinction between them is important, at least to the understanding of the issues of social model of disability.
In distinguishing between impairment and disability, there are three schema I shall outline here: The WHO International Classification of Impairment, Disability and Handicap, Disabled People’s International and a practical guide of an organisation to include people with disabilities in developmental projects. I shall also briefly look at the medical and social disability writer’s views. The WHO International Classification of Impairment, Disability and Handicap (ICIDH) definition:
‘IMPAIRMENT: In the context of health experience, an impairment is any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological, or anatomical structure or function’
DISABILITY: In the context of health experience, a disability is any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being’ (Wood, 1980).
The Disabled People’s International (DPI) definition:
‘IMPAIRMENT: is the functional limitation within the individual caused by physical, mental or sensory impairment.
DISABILITY: is the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due to physical and social barriers’ (DPI, 1982).
Count me in: a practical guide of disabled people organisation in north and south Europe definition:
‘Impairment refers to problem in bodily function and structure as a result of a health condition-for example blindness or paralysis.
Disability refers to impairment, limitations in activities (such as inability to go to the toilet) and restrictions in participation (such as difficulties in being employed, going to school or making use of public transport)’ (Bruijn et al., 2012).
Miller and Bachrach (2006) in their book Cerebral Palsy: A Complete Guide for Caregiving is a good analogy of the differences and interconnections of disability, impairment and handicap. I found their submissions very suitable for distinguishing between impairment and disability. Miller and Bachrach explained that Impairment is the term used for a divergence from normalcy, in which there is a restriction in the muscular movement or the person is unable to determine undesirable’s movement. Disability is the condition used to specify a limitation or confinement in the ability to execute a normal day to day living activities which other individuals of same age bracket is able to execute.
For example, a three-year-old child who is unable to walk has a disability because a normal three-year-old can walk independently. Handicap is the term used to depict a child or adult who, because of the disability, is unable to accomplish the normal role in society commensurate with his age and the socio-cultural environ. For example, a sixteen-year-old who is unable to cook his or her own meal or care for his or her own toileting or hygiene needs is handicapped while a sixteen-year-old who walks only with the assistance of the crutches but who attends a regular school and is fully independent in activities of daily living is disabled but not handicapped.
We can deduce in clarity form this analogy that ‘all disabled people are impaired’, and ‘all handicapped people are disabled’, but a person can be ‘impaired and not necessarily be disabled’, and a person can be ‘disabled without being handicapped’. (Miller & Bachrach, 2006, pp.6-7). Recognising the interwoven of impairment and disability and making a distinct between these two keys through the various definition enlisted above, we must not attempt to look at impairment as a term that needs medical attention rather, we could look toward the development of a social model of impairment standing alongside a social model of disability. (Oliver, 1996).Having this basic notion in mind we can ascertain that disability and impairment is more of social cultural milieu.
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