By: Daniella Jade Lowe

When we think of disability we so often think of wheelchairs (understandable when you consider the disability symbol that is used everywhere), yet only 5% of disabled people actually use a wheelchair. People also tend to confuse a disability with a sickness.

Disability vs Illness

An illness is a sickness. Some illnesses are acute, which means they come on quickly and are over quickly (like a cold or the flu). Other illnesses are chronic, which means they last a long time and perhaps a lifetime (like asthma or diabetes). However, a disability is a physical or mental problem that makes it harder to do normal daily activities. You can be born with a disability or get it from an illness or an injury.

Let’s break this down into simple terms:

Physical impairments

Well, this could include anything from a loss of a limb to an agility or sensory impairment, such as visual or hearing. It would also consist of health conditions with fluctuating effects such as Diabetes, Cancer, Osteoporosis, MS, ME, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Arthritis. Also involved would be progressive conditions such as Muscular Dystrophy and Motor Neurone Disease, and respiratory conditions such as Asthma, and Cardiovascular diseases, including Thrombosis, Stroke and Heart Disease.

Mental impairments

Well, this would include learning disabilities such as Downs Syndrome. It would also comprise of developmental disorders such as Autism, Asperger’s, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. Also covered under mental impairments are mental health issues. This could include anything from severe Depression, Nervous Breakdown, OCD, Eating Disorders, Dementia, Bi-polar Disorder, Schizophrenia, as well as some personality disorders and self-harming behaviour.


This is where the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least twelve months. There are also special rules for recurring or fluctuating conditions.

Normal day-to-day activities

Well, this would include everyday things that everyone does, like cooking a meal, having a bath or wash, or walking to the shop.

What does disability not include?

Definitely not included in the definition are conditions such as hay fever, alcoholism, addiction, exhibitionism, voyeurism or a tendency to steal abuse or set fires.

Screening disability can be very difficult, especially since it’s challenging to distinguish between disability and impairment. In regards to disability, one must first measure the level of ones’ ability before they can determine disability. Also when dealing with disability, many of these individuals are stereotyped, ostracized and treated as less of a person based on the stigma that comes from ones’ opinion or idea of ‘normal’.

Well, what is normal?

Regarding one’s general health, the term is explained as, physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. There is no exhaustive checklist which defines disability. What’s most important is the impact and effect of the condition on someone’s day to day activities. It is also important that you don’t make judgements about how impairment is caused.

For example, liver disease caused by alcoholism would still be considered a disability, although alcoholism itself would not. The most important thing is to never make assumptions. Someone with a disability can be very, physically, fit and strong, highly intelligent and articulate.

No disability or dictionary out there, is capable of clearly defining who we are as a person.”

Robert M. Hensel

4 thoughts on ““WHAT IS DISABILITY???”

  1. With all due respect, Allergies are not only disabilities but covered by the ADA, further more, you seem to have little knowledge or experience with people whom addiction takes a toll, not to mention that Addiction is definitely medical this disabling.

    Also as someone with Neurodevelopmental problems, I feel insulted by this idea that my conditions are just a State Of Mind, they are real and impacted my life tremendously.

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About Daniella-Jade Lowe

Hello everyone! Welcome to my page. My name is Daniella Jade Lowe. I am a university graduate with a BA degree focused on History and Politics from the University of Bradford, England. Journalism and Politics are my passion. I have even represented Bermuda at the London 2012 Paralympic Games as a reporter for Bermuda’s Paralympian Jessica Lewis. During the games I also assessed the level of Wheelchair Accessibility at the event. I am an emerging Journalist, Politician and Disability Advocate. My motive behind doing this was to be an advocate for people with disabilities. I have a disability. It does not completely define me; it just enhances me in a way which differentiates and strengthens me. My disability should be viewed as an ability: to see the world in a different way. As a wheelchair user, I have advocated for Wheelchair Accessibility in Bermuda, by writing various articles for numerous publications on the subject. I also have a blog where I also write about various disability related issues. During Middle School and High School, I used a Garaventa StairTrac to navigate the school for classes. In fact, one of the reasons why I pursued further education and started my career in England was due to Wheelchair Accessibility. During College, I became the Disability Officer for the Students’ Union and I advocated for the students with disabilities. On July 27, 2007, I was invited by former Premier of Bermuda Dr. Ewart Brown for a ‘Brown Bag Lunch’ to discuss issues like Wheelchair Accessibility amongst other things. I have also been sporadically involved with WindReach since I was young. This is how I amplify my voice for Wheelchair Accessibility! I am also skilled in Politics, Microsoft Excel, Customer Service, Microsoft Word, and Strategic Planning. Strong media and communication professional with a BA focused in History and Politics from University of Bradford.