Disability Definition

WHO Definition:

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. Overcoming the difficulties faced by people with disabilities requires interventions to remove environmental and social barriers.

People with disabilities have the same health needs as non-disabled people – for immunization, cancer screening etc. They also may experience a narrower margin of health, both because of poverty and social exclusion, and also because they may be vulnerable to secondary conditions, such as pressure sores or urinary tract infections. Evidence suggests that people with disabilities face barriers in accessing the health and rehabilitation services they need in many settings.

In India:

Definitions of disability conditions have been introduced for various purposes, essentially following the medical model and, as such, they have been based on various criteria of ascertaining abnormality or pathologic conditions of persons. In absence of a conceptual framework based on the social model in the Indian context, no standardisation for evaluating disability across methods has been achieved. In common parlance, different terms such as disabled, handicapped, crippled, physically challenged, are used interchangeably, indicating noticeably the emphasis on pathologic conditions.

According to recent amendments in the “Rights of People with Disabilities Act, 2016” which has come into force from 19th of April 2017.


A. The Act has recognized 21 types of disabilities which were earlier 7 only.


The Highlights of the Acts are mentioned below –

1. Leprosy Cured Persons

Leprosy starts by damaging the small nerves in the skin’s surface. The first outward sign is usually discolored patches where there is no feeling. Leprosy is a mildly infectious disease associated with poverty.

2. Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. People with ASD often have these characteristics:

·        Ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others.

·        Repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities.

·        Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life

3. Specific Learning Disability

Learning disability is a general term that describes specific kinds of learning problems. A learning disability can cause a person to have trouble learning and using certain skills. The skills most often affected are: reading, writing, listening, speaking, reasoning, and doing math.

4. Speech & Language Disability

When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder. Difficulties pronouncing sounds, or articulation disorders, and stammering are examples of speech disorders. Both children and adults can have speech and language disorders.

5. Chronic Neurological Conditions

Neurological disorders are diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system. In other words, the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, peripheral nerves, nerve roots, autonomic nervous system, neuromuscular junction, and muscles.

6. Hearing Impairment (Deaf & Hard of hearing)

Although the term “deaf” is often mistakenly used to refer to all individuals with hearing difficulties, the word deaf usually refers to an individual with very little or no functional hearing and who often uses sign language to communicate. Hard of Hearing refers to an individual who has a mild-to-moderate hearing loss who may communicate through sign language, spoken language, or both.

7. Multiple Disabilities including Deaf-Blindness

Deaf blindness is the combination of significant auditory and visual impairments in a person. These  dual  sensory  losses  vary  in  severity  from person to person and do not necessarily lead to total deafness  and/or  total  blindness.

8. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a long-lasting disease that can affect your brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves in your eyes. It can cause problems with vision, balance, muscle control, and other basic body functions.

9. Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell anemia (sickle cell disease) is a disorder of the blood caused by inherited abnormal hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein within the red blood cells). The abnormal hemoglobin causes distorted (sickled) red blood cells. The sickle red blood cells are fragile and prone to rupture. When the number of red blood cells decreases from rupture (hemolytic), anemia is the result.

10. Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease affects the way you move. It happens when there is a problem with certain nerve cells in the brain. Normally, these nerve cells make an important chemical called dopamine. Dopamine sends signals to the part of your brain that controls movement. It lets your muscles move smoothly and do what you want them to do. When you have Parkinson's, these nerve cells break down.

11. Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18. The term intellectual disability covers the same population of individuals who were diagnosed previously with mental retardation in number, kind, level, type, duration of disability, and the need of people with this disability for individualized services and supports.

12. Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. In muscular dystrophy, abnormal genes (mutations) interfere with the production of proteins needed to form healthy muscle. There are many different kinds of muscular dystrophy. Symptoms of the most common variety begin in childhood, primarily in boys.  

13. Acid Attack Victim

Acid throwing, also called an acid attack, a vitriol attack or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault defined as the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another "with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill". Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones.

14. Locomotor Disability

Disability of the bones, joint or muscles leading to substantial restriction of the movement of the limbs or a usual form of cerebral palsy. Some common conditions giving raise to locomotor disability could be poliomyelitis, cerebral palsy, amputation, injuries of spine, head, soft tissues, fractures, muscular dystrophies etc.

Categories of Locomotors Disabilities

·        Permanent Physical impairment of Upper Limb

·        Permanent Physical impairment of Lower Limb

·        Permanent Physical impairment of Trunk (Spine)

·        Permanent Physical impairment in case Short Stature/ Dwarfism

·        Permanent Physical impairment in Amputees

·        Longitudinal deficiencies

·        Permanent Physical impairment in Neurological conditions

·        Permanent Physical impairment due to cardiopulmonary Diseases

15. Blindness

Visual impairment or blindness is a decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses. Some also include those who have a decreased ability to see because they do not have access to glasses or contact lenses. Visual impairment is often defined as a best corrected visual acuity of worse than either 20/40 or 20/60. The term blindness is used for complete or nearly complete vision loss.

16. Dwarfism

Dwarfism, also known as short stature, occurs when an organism is extremely small. In humans, it is sometimes defined as an adult height of less than 4 feet 10 inches (58 in; 147 cm), regardless of sex, although some individuals with dwarfism are slightly taller. Disproportionate dwarfism is characterized by either short limbs or a short torso.

17. Low-Vision

The WHO working definition of Low Vision (WHO, 1992) is as follows:

“A person with low vision is one who has impairment of visual functioning even after treatment, and/or standard refractive correction, and has a visual acuity of less    than 6/18 to light perception or a visual field of less than 10 degrees from the point of fixation, but who uses, or is potentially able to use, vision for the planning and/or execution of a task”. The points emphasized are that there is significantly reduced vision, visual performance is affected but that there still is vision that can be used.


Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder in which the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen. The disorder results in excessive destruction of red blood cells, which leads to anemia. Anemia is a condition in which your body doesn’t have enough normal, healthy red blood cells.

19. Hemophilia

Hemophilia is a group of inherited blood disorders in which the blood does not clot properly. Bleeding disorders are due to defects in the blood vessels, the coagulation mechanism, or the blood platelets. An affected individual may bleed spontaneously or for longer than a healthy person after injury or surgery.

20. Mental Illness

Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions- disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.

21. Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a set of neurological conditions that affect movement. It is the most common form of childhood disability. The condition makes it hard to move certain parts of the body. There are many degrees of severity. Because of damage to certain parts of the brain, voluntary or involuntary movements or both can be affected.

B. Reservation in Govt. jobs increased from 3% to 4%.

C. To strengthen Prime Minister’s Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan (Accessible India Campaign), provisions for Accessibility in public buildings     (Government & Private), Transportation and Information & Communication Technology (ICT).

D. Right to free education for every child (6 to 18 years of age) with benchmark disability.

E. 5% reservation in Government higher educational Institutions and higher educational institutions receiving aid from the Government.

F.  Penal provisions for violation of the provisions of the Act.