Disability, Impairment, Handicap: Learning from the OTs

Some doctors have a “thing” against integrative management. Me? I love working with Occupational Therapists (which one day my baby sister hopes to be), Physiotherapists (or physio terrorists as they call themselves) and the many other allied health professionals. More about them later.

During our current theory rotation we have had quite a number of classes by Allied Health Professionals. The discussions of disability/impairment interested me immensely. Growing up with a visually impaired father and a mother whose daily work often involves working with the outcasts of society, disability was never strange to me. But these definitions opened my eyes (and mind).

The words “disability”, “impairment” and “handicap” are often used interchangeably… but they actually don’t mean the same thing.

IMPAIRMENT: loss of normal anatomical, physiological or psychological structure or function.

Click here for more about the little girl in this picture.

DISABILITY: Restriction in performing an activity within the normal expected range.

Click here to read about teaching visually impaired children in India.


HANDICAP: A disadvantage that prevents the fulfillment of certain societal roles.

What strikes me about this is the realisation that when society fails to accommodate for those with whatever impairments such that they become defined as handicapped, it is actually society that becomes disabled. – if you understand what I mean.


  1. Mama Pants says:

    I do know what you mean! Love that last sentence 🙂
    Stopping by from SITS. Happy Saturday!

    1. Thanks for visiting – glad I wasn’t completely cryptic!

  2. I did not know there was a difference between those three terms thank you for educating me 🙂

    1. You’re welcome, Nisha! Always happy to share information, just like you do.

  3. Ria says:

    Hi,You have beautifully explained the 3 words with their apt pictures..!! Great to hear about you talk about our Allied Health Sciences..!! Thanks..!! As i belong to the physio (terrorist)team…! 🙂

    1. Thanks for visiting, Ria – I’m glad you liked the post. Keep up the good work 🙂

  4. Great explanations! I have been learning a lot from you in your comments on WMB, and I thought I’d come by to read more! 🙂

    Jen Burden 🙂

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

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