What is a disability

The Equality Act (2010) defines a disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

Disability is part of being human. Almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience disability at some point in their life. Over one billion people – about 15% of the global population – live with some form of disability and this number is increasing.

Disability results from the interaction between individuals with a health condition such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome and depression as well as personal and environmental factors including negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social support. This is often described as the ‘social model of disability’.

People with disability experience poorer health outcomes, have less access to education and work opportunities, and are more likely to live in poverty than those without a disability.

Very often people with disability do not receive the healthcare services they need. Globally evidence shows that half of people with disability cannot afford healthcare and UK evidence shows that despite our NHS having universal access commitments there remain significant barriers in uptake of healthcare for disabled people. People with disability are also more than twice as likely to find healthcare providers' skills inadequate.

The term disabilities in this context includes physical disabilities, mental disabilities, learning disabilities (distinct from learning difficulties) and autism. Disabilities may have been present since birth, acquired or progressive, but do not include long term health conditions.

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