When people think of different types of disabilities, they think of paralysis, blindness, and those that are mentally handicap; however, this is not an all inclusive understanding. The dictionary defines disability as anything that places an individual at a disadvantage. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes the World Health Organization’s (WHO) system of disability classification: the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).
The ICF’s primary purpose is to define a universal and standardized language for the classification of any change in activity, body structure and function, participation levels, and any other environmental factors that influence an individuals health or ability to participate in society. This is inclusive of any factor that is prohibitive or assistive to a person. The ICF clearly defines activity, activity limitations, body functions, body structures, environmental factors, functional limitations, health conditions, participation, participation restrictions, and personal factors. These definitions provide a more unified means of determining and classifying types of disabilities.
Various types of disabilities can affect a person’s mental health, vision, hearing, social relationships, thinking, movement, learning, communication, and memory. An activity is simply an action. This can be the most basic function of eating to more complex actions like writing and mathematical calculation. Walking, talking, and jumping would also be considered activities. When an individual is unable to perform, or has difficulty in performing, an activity it is considered an activity limitation.
A body structure is a physical component of the human body. Body function is the way all the parts and systems in the body work together. A functional limitation is when a person is incapable or has difficulty in completing an activity because of a health problem. A health condition is any disease, injury, or illness. Participation refers to an individuals involvement in life and society, and participation limitation occurs when a person has difficulty in life or society. Personal and environmental factors refer to experience, age, access to technology, and socioeconomic status.
These definitions are used to identify types of disabilities. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity-Disorder (ADHD) prohibits an individual from concentrating and controlling impulsive behavior. Most people with ADHD suffer from being overly active. Complete, or partial, hearing or vision loss are disabilities that restrict a person’s ability to navigate the world around them. These impairments can affect social skills, language development, and communication.
Autism is a group of spectral disorders affecting development, socialization, communication, and behavior. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) occur when a mother consumes alcohol during pregnancy. Cerebral Palsy affects balance and posture. As science and medicine advance, certain disabilities are becoming more prevalent than they were in the past. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) was once associated with incredibly high mortality rates. Today the number of TBI survivors is increasing, alongside spinal cord injuries (SCI) and children with birth defects.
Approximately one in thirty-three children is born with a birth defect. These defects include: cleft lip, cleft palate, a variety of congenital heart defects, down syndrome, encephalocele, gastroschisis, hypospadias, omphalocele, and spinal bifida. Other types of disabilities include: Fragile X syndrome, hemochromatosis, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, paralysis, kernicterus, deep vein thrombosis (DVTs or blood clots), intellectual disabilities, Duchenne/Becker muscular dystrophy, torette syndrome, Von Willebrand disease, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).