Today, about 1 in 5 people worldwide, are living with at least one disability, and most people will experience a disability of some form during the course of their lives.
Disability does not necessarily equate to poor health.
For example, in the early stages of disability associated with paraplegia, the affected person may be considered in poor health and may have a greater need for medical and health care, but once their condition is stable they may enjoy good health.
Disability does not include situations that are not health-related, such as participation restriction solely due to socioeconomic factors. This distinguishes disability from disadvantage or exclusion unrelated to health. However, presence of disability and severity of disability are often associated with individuals’ socioeconomic environments.
People’s health is increasingly conceptualised in terms of their quality of life, what activities they can do, in what areas of life they are able to participate as they wish, and what long-term supports they need for living in the community.
In the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), disability is considered an umbrella term for any or all of the components: impairments, activity limitation and participation restriction, as influenced by environmental factors. Health conditions are a prerequisite (but not a determinant), and personal factors may also influence outcomes.
Impairments are problems in body function or structure such as significant deviation or loss.
Activity limitations are difficulties an individual may have in executing activities.
Participation restrictions are problems an individual may experience in involvement in life situations.
Environmental factors include all the physical and social aspects of the environment that may affect a person’s experience of disability, including equipment used or personal assistance provided. Environmental factors may act as facilitators that diminish disability, or barriers that create it.
People with disabilities face many barriers to good health.
Studies show that individuals with disabilities are more likely than people without disabilities to report:
Having poorer overall health.
Skipping medical care because cost.
Having no access to health insurance.
Having less access to adequate health care.
Engaging in risky health behaviors, including smoking and physical inactivity.
People with disabilities can lead long healthy lives. Many can and do go to school and attend places of worship. They also vote, marry, have children, work, and play. Having a disability does not mean a person can not be healthy.