A disability is an impairment to any portion of the physical body or the mind. A person can have a cognitive disability, a physical disability, or both. A disability will make it difficult for the person to do certain things, like learn, walk, or communicate with the world around them. What makes disabilities so unique is how adversely they effect an individual person. Two people with the same disability can be affected in completely different ways. There are three different dimensions according to the World Health Organization, which classify disabilities: impairment, activity limitation and participation restriction.
- An impairment is a disability that effects the structure of a person’s body or mental functions. For instance, someone is impaired if they have loss of vision or memory loss.
- Someone who has difficulty seeing, walking or problem solving will have an activity limitation.
- Those who have difficulty working, doing recreational activities or obtaining healthcare due to not being able to complete daily activities, has a participation restriction. Depression, a disability that effects the mind, can be classified as a participation restriction disability as individuals find daily tasks difficult to complete.
Basically, activity limitation means that a person cannot execute a specific task or action, whereas participation restriction means that they find it difficult to execute, interact, or be involved with a life situation. Impairment on the other hand, can be divided into two sub-categories: structural and functional. A structural impairment means that the internal or external makeup of that individual’s body has a significant problem. An example of this is an individual who has an amputated leg or arm. A functional impairment is where an individual cannot or can only partially use a portion of their body. A hip joint that seizes can be considered a functional impairment.
A disability can be a part of one or all of these dimensions and sub-categories. For instance, a child that suffers from attention deficit disorder may fit into the participation and impairment categories. Not only can a child with ADD suffer from memory loss (impairment) but they can also have difficulty engaging in school due to being easily distracted (participation restriction). Knowing which dimension you fit into, or your child fits into, can help you better understand the disability, treatment, and lifestyle options needed to obtain a healthy, successful life.