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Mobility & Disability

What Is A Physical Disability?

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What Is A Physical Disability? When a condition affects a person’s physical capacity, mobility, stamina, or dexterity, they can be said to have a physical disability. The causes of physical disabilities vary greatly, and not every person with a specific condition leading to a disability has the same limitations. Regardless of the cause, a physical disability can affect a person’s capacity and mobility.

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Exploring What A Physical Disability Means

What Is A Physical Disability?

A physical disability is a complex experience that reflects the interaction between a person’s body and the features of the society around them. A physical disability could affect their ability to move, achieve tasks, or their dexterity; these can include brain or spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, respiratory disorders, epilepsy, hearing and visual impairments, and more.

It’s necessary to note that a disability can occur at any point in a person’s life; some are born with physical limitations, while others develop them as they age. The physical disability can be permanent, temporary, or even episodic; they can remain the same, steadily worsen, or improve over time. It can be very mild to very severe.

A diagnosis of a physical disability is individual and unique – no two people with the same physical disability will necessarily have the same impairments of functioning. Depending on the type and cause of the physical disability, the disability will affect a person differently.

Types Of Physical Disabilities

A wide range of causes can result in physical disabilities. Some are congenital, meaning the person was born with the disability or developed it due to genetics; others are acquired, meaning they result from accidents, infections, or diseases.

  • Acquired brain injuries can occur after birth due to damage to the brain through infections, accidents, strokes, tumours, neurological diseases, or a lack of oxygen.
  • Arthritis is one class of over a hundred types with varying pain intensities. It can be localized to specific spots on the body, such as the back, neck, hip, knees, or feet.
  • Cerebral palsy is due to an injury to the developing brain before or during birth, caused by a reduced blood supply and lack of oxygen to the brain.
  • Cystic fibrosis is an inherited genetic condition concerning the respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems. It affects the mucus and sweat glands in the body, causing mucus to be thick and clog the air passages in the lungs.
  • Multiple sclerosis occurs when damage occurs to the protective tissue around nerve fibres in the body – called the myelin sheath – causing patches or scars. These can interfere with messages sent through the central nervous system, affecting the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord.
  • Muscular dystrophy is a group of genetic disorders that lead to progressive and irreversible weakness and loss of muscle mass. There are more than 30 types of muscular dystrophy, with each one having a different cause.
  • Spina bifida occurs when the spine and spinal cord do not complete formation in utero. It can cause exposure of the spinal cord and nerves on the surface of the back, instead of being inside the bone and surrounded by muscle.
  • Spinal cord injuries happen when too much pressure is applied to the spinal cord, damaging nerves or cutting off the supply of blood and oxygen. Many spinal cord injuries lead to a loss of function, including mobility or feeling.

Understanding Physical & Mobility Impairments

Mobility impairments are physical disabilities that affect how one gets around. They can include upper or lower limb loss or disability, manual dexterity, and disability in coordination with different organs. Those with mobility impairments often rely on assistive devices such as crutches, canes, wheelchairs, and artificial limbs to move about public and private spaces.

Very often, people with mobility disabilities do not receive the healthcare services they need, but there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. While some people may struggle to perform daily activities like dressing or using the bathroom independently, others may be able to perform these tasks but are unable to walk or move without assistance.

Many barriers that people with disabilities face are physical features of buildings or spaces that limit their access. Some common barriers are steps without ramps, elevators, or lifts; a lack of automatic or push-button doors; lighting that is too low; shelves that are out of reach; beds one cannot get into or out of with ease; and tables that do not have proper knee and toe clearance.

When you or a loved one is faced with a physical disability that creates mobility impairments, it’s essential to address accessibility and safety in their home or living space. Remember, not all physical disabilities are the same – make sure the adjustments reflect one’s actual needs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Disability

A physical disability is defined as a physical condition that impairs a person’s movement, physical capability, endurance, or dexterity. This includes brain or spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, respiratory difficulties, epilepsy, hearing and vision impairments, and other conditions.

They might be the result of an accident, an injury, obesity, an infection, or another ailment. These might also be triggered by hereditary problems.

The diagnosis of a physical handicap is usually made by a qualified physician in an appropriate specialty. The names, titles, and relevant qualifications of the assessors, as well as the dates of testing and/or evaluation, must be included in clinical notes.

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