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What are Some Common Physical Disabilities?

By Phil Shepley
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are several types of common physical disabilities. Sometimes these disabilities are due to a disorder that a person was born with. Other times, a person can be disabled due to an injury.

Visual impairments: It is estimated by the American Foundation for the Blind that 10 million people in the United Stated are visually impaired. Visual impairment in an individual can range from near-sightedness to complete blindness. As with most physical disabilities, this can be present in an individual from birth or caused by an injury to the eyes or brain. Another cause of visual impairment is simply old age.

Hearing impairments: The most common type of hearing impairment is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which refers to damage to hearing caused by loud noises. Hearing loss can also be caused by head trauma, ear infections, pregnancy complications and genetic disorders. In many cases, the ability to hear can be partially helped through the use of a hearing aid.

Impairments caused by injuries of the skeletal system along with muscles, joints and ligaments: These common physical disabilities include amputations and disabilities due to spinal cord injuries (SCI). An amputee is a person who has lost all or a portion of an arm or a leg due to an amputation. Some of the most traumatic of injuries are spinal cord injuries, which often leave the injured person paralyzed. A more serious SCI can leave the injured person partially or completely paralyzed.

Birth and hereditary defects or disorders resulting in physical impairment: Many disabilities begin at or before birth. One of these is cerebral palsy, a disorder caused by a defect in the brain and resulting in impairments of movement and posture. Another is spina bifida, which results in an incompletely formed spinal cord. Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disorder that causes multiple bodily systems to fail as life progresses. There are many more birth and hereditary defects, and they are treatable to varying degrees and undergoing constant research.

In more severe cases, the disabled person completely loses the ability to use part of his or her body. A paraplegic is unable to use his or her lower limbs while a quadriplegic is paralyzed completely below the neck. In the most severe cases, the disabled person is required to be permanently immobilized in order to survive.

People with physical disabilities sometimes require special means to get from one place to another or to do everyday activities. A paraplegic, for example, sometimes needs a wheelchair, or an amputee can use a prosthetic limb. A blind person may use a cane to help him “see,” while a deaf person may use sign language in order to communicate. Animals can also be trained to aid the disabled, and in many cases, vehicles can be modified to accommodate them as well. Many laws exist to aid disabled people in society, and in the US, the most recognizable of these laws is the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). It covers a broad range of civil rights that protect the disabled from discrimination.

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Discussion Comments
By gracimus — On Jan 05, 2009

I work with a child with Dyspraxia and I was wondering if Dyspraxia is classified as a physical disability or not??? Thank You

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