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What is a disability?


A disability may be generally defined as a condition which may restrict a person's mental, sensory, or mobility functions to undertake or perform a task in the same way as a person who does not have a disability.

It does not mean that a person with a disability is unable to perform all the important requirements of a job and exceed the expectations of their employer.

Disabilities affect people in different ways. Many people associate the 'disabled' with someone who is in a wheelchair, or who is blind or deaf. They have the attitude that people with a disability are totally different and therefore need to be treated differently. Unfortunately, this kind of stereotyping is in itself a form of discrimination.

People with a disability come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours, sex and cultures - just as we all do. The only thing that separates a person with a disability is that, for one reason or another, they are unable to do certain things in the same way as the mainstream of society. They may require some form of adaptation or alteration to assist them to overcome the effect of their disability.

A person's disability is always specific to that person.

A Disability is generally a condition either caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease, which may restrict a person's mental processes, senses or mobility.

A Handicap is a physical or attitudinal constraint imposed on a person regardless of whether or not that person has a disability.

In the context of employment, someone may have a disability, but it may not be a handicap to them performing the job.

Types of disability


The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) identifies and defines the following categories of disability:

  • Physical - affects a person's mobility or dexterity
  • Intellectual - affects a person's abilities to learn
  • Psychiatric - affects a person's thinking processes
  • Sensory - affects a person's ability to hear or see
  • Neurological - results in the loss of some bodily or mental functions


Also included are disabilities resulting from physical disfigurement or from the presence of organisms causing or capable of causing disease in the body.


We should not equate a disability with poor health.

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