Disability, impairment, activity limitation, what this?

Common parlance generally speaks of “handicap”; but there is a difference between disability, impairment and other terms defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

When a medical diagnosis is made, it is primarily a finding of impairment, according to the terminology adopted by the WHO. The deficiency (sensory in the case of vision) leads to activity limitations (inability to read letters that are too small, for example) and to participation restrictions (difficulty in taking an amphitheater course). Disability is the consequence of the impairment due to the situations in which the person with disabilities is placed. The importance of disability depends on the actions taken by our society to reduce it, but also on personal factors.

Here are the definitions proposed by the WHO in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health :

  • Deficiency: any loss of substance or alteration of a psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function (biomedical aspect)
  • Activity Limitations: An activity limitation refers to the difficulty a person may encounter in carrying out an activity. An activity means the execution of a task or an action by a person.
  • Participation Restrictions: A participation restriction refers to the problem that a person may encounter to participate in a real situation. Participation is the act of taking part in a life situation.
  • Handicap: any limitation of activity or restriction of participation in society suffered in his environment by a person due to a substantial, lasting or definitive impairment of one or more physical, sensory, mental, cognitive or psychic functions, polyhandicap or a disabling health disorder.

It should be noted that you do not need to have a disability to be disabled! A young athlete with a plaster cast is handicapped if he has to go up to the sixth floor without a lift.