In the definition given by the Planning
Commission of India, a disabled person means a person who is
A person shall be deemed to be deaf if
he/she has lost 60 decibels or more in the better ear in the
conversational range of frequencies.
Disability means - Blindness, Low vision,
Leprosy cured, Hearing impairment, Mental retardation, Mental
'Blindness' refers to a condition where a
person suffers from any of the
following conditions, namely -
ACCORDING TO THE STANDEARD RULES ON THE
EQUALIZATION OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES, UNITED
The term 'disability'
summarizes a great number of different functional limitations
occurring in any population in any country of the world. People
may be disabled by physical, intellectual or sensory impairment,
medical conditions or mental illness.
The term handicap
means the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in
the life of the community on an equal level with others. It
describes the encounter between the persons with a disability
and the environment. The purpose of this term is to emphasize
the focus on the shortcomings in the environment and in many
organized activities in society, e.g., information,
communication and education, which prevent persons with
disabilities from participating on equal terms.
of the disabled
The disabled are people with one or more
physical, mental and sensory impairments which limit one or more
of the basic life activities such as seeing, hearing, talking,
walking, using hands, understanding, learning, communicating,
etc. The following five categories were officially used in India
before thePersons with Disability (Equal Opportunities,
Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995:
The visually handicapped;
The speech and hearing handicapped;
The locomotor handicapped;
The mentally retarded;
The neurologically handicapped - in this category, the
concern is restricted to only the cerebral palsied.
The Persons with Disabilities (Equal
Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act,
1995, identifies the following seven categories of disability,
which will now be used in India :
Simplicity in Definition
It is difficult to
conceive of a rigid and precise definition acceptable to all
those providers, who in order to ration the supply of their
limited services in the face of immense demand, prefer to use
definitions which exclude even genuine people with disabilities.
On the other hand, it is equally difficult to accommodate the
expectations of those who use a flexible definition to include
even those at the borderline. There are hundreds of different
disabilities and there are as many causes of these. Some people
are born with disabilities, others become disabled later on in
their lives. Some disabilities exhibit themselves only
periodically like fits and seizures, others are constant
conditions and are life-long. The severity of some stays the
same. Others get progressively worse like muscular dystrophy and
cystic fibrosis. Some are hidden and not obvious like epilepsy
or haemophilia (impairment of blood clotting mechanism).
can be controlled and cured, others still baffle the experts.
Thus, finding a consensus on the different and frequently
varying definitions of disabilities, whether sophisticated or
practical, has never been easy.
The definitions of
mental retardation based on IQ levels are outmoded. It is not
possible to decide retardation just on the basis of IQ levels
since the IQ tests' usefulness is limited to indicating how well
a person may do in education and not how well he or she might do
at work or life. While it may be argued that there cannot be a
universal blueprint of definitions, it is, however, necessary to
have a fresh look at the definitions and include other
categories such as disability due to epilepsy, learning
disability, the definitions should be uniformly used throughout
the country for the schemes of concessions / facilities provided
for people with disabilities.
with Disabilities Act, 1990 (ADA) classifies an
individual as disabled if his/her physical or mental impairment
"substantially limits one or more of the major life activities".
Disability Discrimination Act, 1992 of Australia, 'disability' in
relation to a person, means-
total or partial loss of the person's bodily or mental
total or partial loss of a part of the body; or
the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing
disease or illness; or
the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or
the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part
of the person's body; or
disorder or malfunction that results in the person
learning differently from a person without the disorder or
disorder, illness or disease that affects a person's
thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment
or that results in disturbed behaviour and includes a
presently exists; or
previously existed but no longer exists; or
may exist in the future; or
is imputed to a person.
According to the Disability
Discrimination Act, 1995 of the British Government, a person has
a disability for the purposes of this Act if he has a physical
or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term
adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day
In order to apply the durability test, the British Act uses
three different terms: loss of faculty, disability and
disablement. These are meant to be separate concepts.
Loss of Faculty
Loss of faculty is any pathological condition or any loss or
reduction of normal physical or mental functions of an organ or
part of the body. A loss of faculty in itself may not be a
disability but is an actual cause of one or more disabilities,
e.g., the loss of one kidney.
A 'disability' means an inability to perform a normal
bodily or mental process. It could either be complete inability
to do something (such as walking) or it can be partial inability
to do something ( such as one can lift weights but not heavy
It is the sum total of all the separate disabilities an
individual may suffer from. It means an overall inability to
perform the normal activities of life. The loss of health,
strength and power to enjoy a normal life. While assessing an
individual his/her physical and mental condition, inconvenience,
genuine embarrassment or anxiety is taken into account.
Medical and Social Models
There are two major models which explain disability and suggest
approaches to deal with it in practical ways, the medical model
and social model.
The medical model views disability as a personal tragedy.
Disability such as the impairment of limb, organ or function has
traumatic physical and psychological effects on a disabled
person. Disabled people, in this model, are regarded as people
with limitations who cannot ensure a reasonable quality of life
because of their impairment. The medical model expects
individuals to find ways of adapting to society. It puts the
duty of adjusting and adapting to the society of able-bodied or
people and their environment on the disabled.
The social model presents disability as a consequence of
oppression, prejudice and discrimination by the society against
disabled people. It is the society which constructs economic,
social, health, architectural, legal, cultural and other
barriers in order to deliberately prevent people with
impairments enjoy full benefits of the society. The social model
shifts the emphasis from a disabled individual to the society
and its disabling attitudes and environment.