What is Disability?


People who do not have friends, family, or colleagues with disabilities may have only a vague idea of what disability is. They may wonder: what is disability? They may also think first, or only, of someone with a physical disability. In addition, these people may not know how disability affects people’s lives. For example, they may assume that someone with a disability cannot work or raise a family. As a result of these assumptions, many people design barriers that limit the lives of people with disabilities. Some of these barriers are:

People can help to remove these barriers through understanding what disability is. The AODA includes a definition of disability, to help Ontarians better understand how its mandates impact people’s lives. Moreover, the definition helps people understand why the rules in the AODA’s standards matter.

What is Disability?

The AODA defines disability broadly. It states that disability can happen at birth, or through illness or injury. Furthermore, the act also outlines several types of disability. These types are examples, rather than a complete list of all disabilities.

Physical Disabilities

For instance, the act states that physical disabilities may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • A brain injury
  • Paralysis
  • Amputation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Visual impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Speech impairment
  • Reliance on a:

In other words, disability sometimes affects how people’s bodies move, or how they perceive or communicate. In addition, some people with disabilities use service animals or assistive devices, while others have invisible disabilities. Moreover, there are different kinds or degrees of disability. For instance, one person may have one amputated limb, while another has more than one. Likewise, one person may be totally blind while another has some sight.

Other Disabilities

The AODA then briefly lists some other types of disability, which include:

  • Mental impairment or developmental disability
  • Learning disability
  • Mental health disability
  • An injury or disability that allows someone to claim or receive benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act

Here, the act makes Ontarians aware of some other types of disability that people may have. For instance, it mentions mental health disabilities, another broad term that includes many medical conditions. These conditions can affect many different aspects of a person, such as:

  • Thought processes
  • Emotions
  • Moods
  • Behaviours
  • Sense of self
  • Capacity to connect with others
  • Ability to cope with stress

Similarly, learning disabilities affect people’s ability to take in, understand, or remember information. However, learning disabilities impact people in different ways. For example, some people may have difficulty with writing but understand speech easily. In contrast, others may not process speech but communicate easily using writing and visual information.

Readers of the AODA find answers to the question: what is disability? Ontarians learn that there are many types of disability that affect people’s lives. Moreover, they discover that the AODA’s standards remove barriers and create more access to:

Therefore, Ontarians can learn through the AODA that when barriers are removed, people can live full lives. 




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