What is a disability?

“A substantial restriction in the capacity of the person to carry on a profession, business or occupation in the Irish State or to participate in social or cultural life in the Irish State by reason of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment.”

The Disability Act (Government of Ireland, 2005)
According to the 2016 Census, 13.5% of Ireland's population have a disability. This is 1 in 7 people. Only 36.5% of people with a disability are in employment.

Types of disabilities.

There is recognition that “disability” is an evolving concept resulting from attitudinal and environmental barriers hindering the participation of persons with disabilities in society. Consequently, the notion of “disability” is not fixed and can alter, depending on the general environment. Second, disability is not considered as a medical condition, but rather as a result of the interaction between negative attitudes or an unwelcoming environment with the condition of particular persons. By dismantling attitudinal and environmental barriers – as opposed to treating persons with disabilities as problems to be fixed – those persons can participate as active members of society and enjoy the full range of their rights..”

The UN Convention of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

The following terms are used to describe people with visual disabilities:
“Totally blind” persons use Braille or other non-visual media.
“Legally blind” indicates that a person has less than 20/200 vision in the more functional eye or a very limited field of vision (20 degrees at its widest point).
“Low vision” refers to a severe vision loss in distance and near vision. Persons use a combination of vision and other senses to learn, and they may require adaptations in lighting or the print size, and, in some cases, Braille.

Brain injury may occur in many ways. Traumatic brain injury typically results from accidents; however, insufficient oxygen, stroke, poisoning, or infection may also cause brain injury. Brain injury is one of the fastest growing types of disability, especially in the age range of 15 to 28 years.

Highly individual; brain injuries can affect persons very differently. Depending on the area(s) of the brain affected by the injury, a person may need support with:
Organizing thoughts, cause-effect relationships, and problem solving
Processing information and word retrieval
Generalizing and integrating skills
Social interactions
Short-term memory
Balance or coordination
Communication and speech

Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing require different accommodations depending on several factors, including the degree of hearing loss, the age of onset, and the type of language or communication system they use. They may use a variety of communication methods, including lip reading, cued speech, or Irish Sign Language.

Deaf or hard of hearing persons may:
be skilled lip readers, but many are not; only 30 to 40 percent of spoken English is distinguishable on the mouth and lips under the best of conditions
also need support with speech, reading and writing skills, given the close relationship between language development and hearing
use speech, lip reading, hearing aids and/or amplification systems to enhance oral communication
be members of a distinct linguistic and cultural group; as a cultural group, they may have their own values, social norms and traditions
use Irish Sign Language as their first language, with English as their second language.

Other disabilities include conditions affecting one or more of the body’s systems. These include respiratory, immunological, neurological, and circulatory systems.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Epilepsy/Seizure Disorder
Lupus Erythmatosis
Multiple Sclerosis
Chemical Dependency
Epstein Barr virus
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Renal Disease

A variety of physical disabilities result from congenital conditions, accidents, or progressive neuromuscular diseases. These disabilities may include conditions such as spinal cord injury (paraplegia or quadriplegia), cerebral palsy, spina bifida, amputation, muscular dystrophy, cardiac conditions, cystic fibrosis, paralysis, polio/post polio, and stroke.

Physical disabilities are highly individualised; the same diagnosis can affect persons very differently.

Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.

Speech and language disabilities may result from hearing loss, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and/or physical conditions. There may be a range of difficulties from problems with articulation or voice strength to complete absence of voice. Included are difficulties in projection, fluency problems, such as stuttering and stammering, and in articulating particular words or terms.

Learning disabilities are neurologically based and may interfere with the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical skills. They affect the manner in which individuals process and / or express information.

A relatively new term, neurodivergent simply means someone who thinks differently from the way the majority (referred to as neurotypical) expect.

Here are several neurodiverse conditions:

ADHD: affecting around 4% of the population, ADHD can cause issues with impulse control, attention, and concentration.

Autism: affecting 1-2% of the population, autism affects the way someone perceives the world. People with autism can find social interaction and change difficult and uncomfortable.

Dyslexia: a condition that gives someone language processing difficulties that cause issues with reading, writing, and spelling.

Dyspraxia: affecting around 5% of the population, dyspraxia affects physical coordination. People may seem clumsy, disorganised, and have trouble with structure.

Dyscalculia: a specific learning disorder with impairments in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numbers and performing accurate and fluent calculations.

Dysgraphia: a specific learning disability that affects written expression. Dysgraphia can appear as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting, and trouble putting thoughts on paper.

Tourette Syndrome: a neurological condition where there are tics they can’t control – sounds and movements.


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