It’s a common misconception that people with disabilities are the incredibly unlucky minority and that ‘it won’t happen to me’. In fact, statistics say that around one person in every five throughout the world is living with at least one disability and most of us will have some form of disability during our lives.
So, does being disabled mean that the sufferer has poor health? Not necessarily. A person in the early stages of paraplegia for example may be considered to be in poor health and their requirement for medical treatment will probably be quite high. Once the condition has stabilised, their health may well be pretty good.
In today’s society, health is viewed increasingly in terms of what activities people are able to undertake; what areas of their lives they are able to participate fully in and whether or not they will need any long term support if they are to continue living actively within the community.
Disability is often used as an all-inclusive term for any or all of the impairments, participation restriction and activity limitation as determined by environmental factors. Personal circumstances may influence outcomes and health conditions are generally considered to be a determinant. Impairments are defined as problems with the way in which a body actually functions or loss or compromise in its structure. Activity limitations are problems experienced by a person when carrying out various activities. Participation restrictions are defined as barriers to a person’s involvement in real-life situations. Environmental factors include any and all aspects of the environment a person lives in which influence that person’s experience of disability. Such factors as personal care and assistance requirements or specialised equipment used are included here. Environmental factors may diminish the effects of a disability or serve to amplify the effect it has on the sufferer.
Surveys carried out recently worryingly show that those with disabilities are more likely than able-bodied individuals to complain of having poor health. They are more likely to do without important medical care because of cost limitations and the inability to source adequate healthcare insurance or the perception that suitable healthcare is not available to them. They commonly smoke and indulge in other health threatening behaviour such as alcohol abuse.
Despite the reports and statistics, people with disabilities can and do live very long, active and healthy lives. Just because a person is physically compromised does not mean that they cannot be healthy.