Living Ability Not Disability (L.A.N.D.) Malta

Definition of disability

The distinction between Handicap and disability as defined by the United Nations, after the World Health Organization is as follows:-


A function of the relationship between disabled persons and their environment. Handicap is the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the life of the community on an equal level with others.


Any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.

From a medical perspective impairment can be defined as lacking part of all limb, or having a defective, organ, or mechanism of the body (Stopford, 1987). Thus disablement is the loss of functional ability and handicap is the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by the disability.

This example of the medical perception of disability has been contested by people with disabilities and is now antiquated which I also don’t subscribe to. This insight of the context of the medical definition of disability is what most people have in mind when they think of a disability. Focusing solely on the medical aspect of a disability one assumes that a disability requires treatment and living with a disability is a lifelong quest for such treatments to live a ‘normal’ life, because medical definitions ignore the person and focus solely on a perceived physical or mental illusion. It emphasizes individual loss or inabilities (Barton, 1996) thus fuelling dependency, labelling such as ‘invalid’, ‘cripple’, ‘handicapped’ all implying functional loss and worthlessness. This aids in enhancing the notion of what (Oliver, 1990) termed the hegemony of disability.

Therefore, the medical definition of ‘disability’ can influence how it is perceived by medical ‘experts’. However, disability has been dealt with a different viewpoint by disabled people themselves. They maintain that disablement is socially constructed. For example, in 1976 The Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation defined ‘impairment’ and ‘disability’ in this way. 

Disability is the disadvantage or restriction caused by a contemporary social organization which takes little or no account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from participation in the mainstream of social activities. Physical disability is therefore a particular form of social oppression. (UPIAS, 1976: p24)

This statement has been broadened to include all impairments, physical, sensory and intellectual and is the official position of the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP) and the Disabled People’s International (Barnes, 1991) and formally known as the ‘social model theory’ within disability structures.

The social model theory is embraced by the Kummissjoni Nazzjonali Persuni b’Dizabilta. 


Lacking part of all limb, or having defective limb, organ or mechanism of the body. 


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