Physical disability covers a wide range of conditions and can affect all people, in all age groups and across all genders and ethnicities. According to the World Health Organisation, there are over 1 billion people in the world today who suffer from some form of disability, of which 110 million can be considered to have a severe condition and experience daily difficulties. Even in more developed countries, those with disabilities are all too often subject to discrimination and reduced life chances because of their condition.
A physical disability puts a limitation on a person’s normal functioning, their ability to be mobile, their dexterity or their stamina to perform certain acts. A person with a heart condition may have a physical disability where they cannot walk or be active for long periods without getting out of breath. An individual who suffers from multiple sclerosis may require a wheel chair to get around.
While some people can cope quite well with a physical disability and continue to do most of the things that an able bodied person can do, others may require support or specialist equipment to help them. Physical disability can be present from birth or may have been caused by something like an accident or a health problem. A disability may be part of another condition or a result of it such as poliomyelitis or muscular dystrophy. Older people are more likely to develop a physically disabling condition, including vision and hearing impairment and loss of mobility.
Musculo Skeletal Disability
This is characterised by muscle or skeletal problems or deformities and can include:
Neuro Muscular Disability
Damage to the nervous system and the brain can produce various disabilities. Some of the conditions that affect this area of the body can include:
Spinal cord injury can lead to significant physical impairment such as paraplegia where the lower part of the body is unable to move and tetraplegia where all four limbs are totally or partially impaired. Polio in its most severe cases can lead to muscle deformities some 15 to 40 years after the onset of an acute infection.
The Effect of a Physical Disability
The effect a particular disability has on an individual will depend on the severity. Conditions such as muscular dystrophy gradually worsen over time. A physical disability such as blindness may require a person to learn new skills and ways of doing things but they can, with the right support, learn to live independent lives.
The amount of support that is available is vital if someone is to overcome their physical disability. In the developed world in particular, having a disability is often no barrier to working and enjoying a full and fruitful life. In other parts of the world, however, it can mean living in poverty with little help and little prospect of leading a comparatively normal life compared to able bodied people. Much of this is down to local culture as well as the lack of support and financial infrastructure, particularly in the most severe cases of physical disability.