6 Definitions of Disabilities-Carly Danowitz

  1. World Health Organization definition: any lack of ability or restriction to perform an activity in the range or manner considered normal for humans. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 217)



  1. American With Disabilities Act definition: a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more of an individual’s regular life activities such as education, employment, self-care or socialization, there must be record of such an impairment, and the individual must be considered as having an impairment. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 217)



  1. Mackelprang and Salsgiver definition: all professions define disability differently, because some recognize other factors, such as environment, in addition to the individual’s problems. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 217)



  1. Institute of Medicine definition: specifically stresses risk factors associated with health-related conditions, including physical, biological, behavioral, social, and environmental characteristics. Disability is not determined only by biology; it is a combination of factors that become an impairment, which progresses from a limitation to a full disability. It does not have to be a unitary condition; an individual can have secondary conditions or multiple disabilities. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 217-218)



  1. Rothman definition: our society defines disability as anyone with a mobility limitation, commonly wheelchair users. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 218)


  1. Developmental Disability definition: a chronic and severe condition which comes from a physical or mental impairment, is permanent (continues), occurs before age 21, requires professional services for a lifelong duration that is planned case by case from many disciplines, and results in major functional limitations in the major areas of life including learning, self-care, self-sufficiency economically, language, mobility, and capacity for living independently. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 218)




DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.


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