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Types of physical disability (and characteristics)

Types of physical disability (and characteristics)

September 22, 2022

Look around. The entrance to your house or a public building, the streets, public transport such as buses and metro ... all this has been thought for a majority of the population which is able to move , perceive and interact with the environment in a normative way.

However, there is a part of citizenship that for various reasons does not have the same capabilities, its options being reduced. This part corresponds to those who suffer some type of physical, mental or sensory disability. Disability is a barrier for many people, who see their lives limited.

In the case of physical disability, these barriers are sometimes literal, and freedom of movement is highly restricted. That is why exploring the different types of physical disability can be a way to understand the needs of the people who present them and to make it easier to adapt to the environment.


  • Related article: "Types of intellectual disability and their characteristics"

Deficiency and disability: distinguishing between concepts

There is a wide diversity in the abilities and abilities of the different individuals that make up society. We can have more or less stature, light or brown eyes or skin of different color. There are also people with more artistic sensitivity than others, or with greater mathematical abilities.

There are people who see very well at a long distance while another has a sense of hearing much more developed than the rest. These differences between us do not prevent us from enjoying a more or less similar life, having or having the same opportunities to develop and seek our own and others' happiness while we thrive and participate in the world.


However, for some people this is much more complicated due to the existence of some deficiency. Some of them present a physical or psychic configuration different from the usual , a part of them being affected or not working in the same degree as that which is habitual in the individual or in relation to the rest.

These deficiencies can cause the subject who suffers a disability, if the characteristics of their state limit or prevent the person from carrying out in a normative way one or more of a daily activity. This does not imply not being able to do the same things, but it does mean that they will need support or access roads that take into account their difficulties.

A) Yes, while the deficiency is that organ or aspect that does not work correctly, the disability is that which can not or costs more to do due to this malfunction . In the case at hand, the physical disability, the affected functionality is movement.


Concept of physical disability

We understand physical disability to that situation or state in which there is a circumstance that prevents or hinders to a large extent that the person suffering from it can move freely and in a way that has full functionality. This type of disability affects the locomotor system, being especially visible in the case of the extremities although it can affect so that the skeletal muscles can not be moved voluntarily.

The limitations present in people with physical disabilities make it really difficult to lead a normal life unless they have certain external help. These limitations can be permanent or temporary, depending on whether the deficiency is treated that provokes them or grants sufficient aids so that there is no reduction in functionality.

Most frequent causes

There are a variety of reasons why a person may have a physical disability. However, as a general rule we can consider that the deficiencies that cause disability are usually due to a problem or damage either in the muscles or in the nervous system (either at the level of the nerves that innervate the areas in question, in the medulla spinal or at some point in the motor cortex).

Some of the causes of these injuries can be found in the suffering of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, tumors, infections or inflammations of muscular or nervous tissues or traumatisms of different types. They also cause cases of physical disability some congenital malformations, such as spina bifida.

Classification of physical disability

As we have said, the reasons why a person can have a physical disability are multiple and varied. When classifying the different types of physical disability, these causes or the areas that have limited or limited movement or its causes are usually taken into account.

So that, we can find that in general the types of physical disability are going to be the following .

Types according to their cause

  • Motors with or without brain involvement
  • Due to illness
  • Mixed

Types according to the affected area

  • Motor disability of the lower extremities
  • Motor disability of the upper extremities, trunk, neck and face
  • Other motor disabilities

Some of the main types of physical disability

Entering on matter, The different types of disability or physical disability are the following .

1. Monoplejia

Paralysis of a single limb , usually produced by damage to the nerve that innervates the area in question.

2. Paraplegia

This affectation due to a medullary lesion in the dorsal area supposes the paralysis or inability of movement of the lower half of the body. It basically affects the legs and feet . The subject loses the ability to walk. It may or may not affect the sexual response capacity.

3. Tetraplegia

Alteration due to a cervical spinal cord injury whose repercussion is observed in the total loss of movement capacity of the lower extremities and total or partial loss of movement capacity of the upper limbs .

Depending on the position of the lesion, the difficulties will be greater or less, implying, in general, a greater affectation and disability associated with those damages in the vertebrae closest to the skull. In fact, it can lead to the need to use artificial ventilators in order to keep the patient's breathing.

4. Hemiplegia

It is an alteration or injury in the nervous system that produces the paralysis of the opposite or contralateral to the damaged part . It is usually due to cerebrovascular accidents or traumatic brain injuries.

4. Spina bifida

It is a type of congenital malformation in which the neuronal tube and the spinal column do not close completely during the formation of the fetus, producing damage to the nerves and the spinal cord. can impede or hinder the movement of the person .

5. Muscular dystrophy

The group of disorders encompassed within muscular dystrophy cause the presence of a weak muscle tone that loses tissue over time , making movement difficult and causing a disability. It is one of the most frequent types of physical disability.

6. Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a chronic medical condition due to problems during the brain development of the fetus or child, which produces serious effects on the motor . These effects can range from difficulties and slowness of movement, rigidity, agitation, convulsions or even a complete paralysis of the voluntary musculature.

7. Amputation

The loss of limbs or parts of the body can cause a physical disability by limiting the person's usual functioning .


EDC1200 - Physical Disabilities (September 2022).


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