Disability Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Disability, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Disability?

n. 1) When a usual physical or mental functions are prevented from a condition. Typically, this refers to a permanent lack of function, but can be temporary. People with disabilities should be accommodated and encouraged to perform at their maximum potential. Society and the law gives disables the right to participate in governmental and societal activities without hindrances. Many states require special arrangements such as access to ramps, elevators and special parking designations. 2) Legal impediment such as being underage and cannot make a contract, or being incompetent or insane.

History and Meaning of Disability

The term "disability" refers to a physical or mental impairment that limits a person's ability to perform tasks that are considered typical for their age, gender, or cultural roles. The definition of disability varies depending on the context in which it is used, but it generally involves some degree of impairment that interferes with daily activities. Disabilities can be either temporary or permanent and can affect physical, mental, or sensory functions. The disabled population has historically faced barriers related to employment, education, and social participation, and legal protections have been created to reduce these barriers.

Examples of Disability

  • A person who uses a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury that limits their ability to walk.
  • An individual with a learning disability that affects their ability to read and write.
  • A person with a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, that impacts their ability to concentrate and perform daily activities.

Legal Terms Similar to Disability

  • Impairment: This term refers to a physical or mental condition that affects a person’s performance of daily activities.
  • Handicap: This term refers to the social disadvantages that arise from a person’s impairment, such as discrimination or inaccessible environments.
  • Accommodation: This term refers to changes made to the environment or workplace to enable a person with a disability to participate in activities or access services.