Building an understanding about disability
The definition of disability has evolved over the last few decades, based on the way society views people with physical and mental impairments and aging
populations. While people largely understand the meaning of the word, most tend to view it as a physical impairment rather than a blend of physical as
well as social barriers, that keep an individual ‘apart’ from society.
The World Health Organization’s 2011 ‘World Report on Disability’ describes it as a state where there are impairments, activity limitations and participation
restrictions for individuals (with health conditions) based also on contextual factors such as the environment and personal issues.
Disabilities impact individuals in a number of ways. While people with visual impairments are unable to see and read published content, or what is on
computer screens, mobility problems such as arthritis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and paraplegia, prevent them from moving
freely, or performing tasks independently. Deafness and cognitive impairments, meanwhile, can affect the learning and language skills of people and their
ability to comprehend words.
In an effort to help people with disabilities overcome these challenges, scientists the world over have been developing products and solutions that reduce
their dependence on others, and enable them to live independent, productive lives.
There is greater sensitivity about the needs of the disabled today, than there was in the past. The result is that we are seeing better physical infrastructure
in terms of disabled-friendly buildings that have ramps, rails, special elevators and toilets and other conveniences. Automated cars, motorized wheelchairs
and other hi-tech innovations are some of the other ways in which people with disabilities are being supported by society. Overall, disability is being better
understood now, even though there is still a long way to go before people with such problems can be completely and successfully integrated into the
mainstream and enjoy the same advantages as citizens who are normal and healthy.