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Definition of Disability

A disabled person (child or adult) is someone who has a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal-day-to-day activites. 

  • A physical or mental impairment includes sensory impairments; impairments relating to mental functioning, including learning disabilites; and long term health conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, HIV infection, cancer or multiple sclerosis.

  • Substantial means more than minor or trivial.

  • Long-term means an impairment that has lasted at least 12 months, or is likely to last 12 months or for the rest of the person's life.
  • Normal day-to-day activities cover the following categories: mobility; manual dexterity; physical coordination; continence; ability to lift, carry or otherwise move everyday objects; speech, hearing or eyesight; memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand; perception of the risk of physical danger.


Someone with impairment may be receiving medical or other treatment which alleviates or removes the effects of that impairment (but not that impairment itself). In such cases the treatment should be diagnosed and the impairment is taken to have the effect it would have had without the treatment.


Some people are automatically deemed to have a disability covered by the Act - those with HIV, cancer, MS and severe disfigurements. There are special provisions for people with progressive or recurring conditions.