Fieldnotes: Just what is a disability?

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What is a disability? This is an extraordinarily complex question. The Americans with Disabilities Act was vague on this issue, stating that it was a "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." In recent years, this definition has been severely narrowed by several Supreme Court decisions. In Japan, disability is defined medically through specific definitions of certain impairments -- degrees of motion in legs; decibels of hearing loss; etc.

What does the U.N. convention propose? This is an issue that is still under debate. From footnotes to Article 3 of the Working Group text:

12: Many members of the Working Group emphasised that a convention should protect the rights of all persons with disabilities (i.e. all different types of disabilities) and suggested that the term "disability" should be defined broadly. Some members were of the view that no definition of 'disability' should be included in the convention, given the complexity of disability and the risk of limiting the ambit of the convention. Other delegations pointed to existing definitions used in the international context including the World Health Organisation's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). There was general agreement that if a definition was included, it should be one that reflects the social model of disability, rather than the medical model.

This issue is coming up today as delegates discuss disabilities and secondary disabilities.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on August 8, 2005 11:13 AM.

Fieldnotes: Photographing Archival Materials was the previous entry in this blog.

Info: Double-clicking open Photoshop files broken in Mac OSX 10.4 is the next entry in this blog.

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