Defining “Disability”

Dictionary heading for disability, with pronunciation and type of word (noun)The meaning of the term “disability” is continually changing. There are a number of intellectual, physical, and mental conditions now referred to as disabilities, and diagnoses of disability are becoming more precise. While there are many benefits to precise definitions of disability (tailored supports, improved medical responses, etc.), the Every Canadian Counts (ECC) working group also knows definitions can and have divided the broader disability community in Canada.

Politicians, policy experts, and experienced coalition builders have told us the Every Canadian Counts initiative will require the unity of all disability organizations to succeed. Therefore, the ECC working group chooses to recognize a broad, inclusive definition of disability as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006):

“Recognizing that disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” (Preamble, Paragraph e); and,

“Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” (Article 1). [1]

[1] http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf