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PBC Library

The NAU library website for the Phoenix Biomedical Campus Library

Physical Disabilities

 Disparities for persons with physical/mobile disabilities 


The World Health Organization has played a key role in defining disability as it is understood today. Through the WHO's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) Framework, a disability is defined as "an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions." (2018) The WHO further defines impairments as problems "in body function or structure" and activity limitations as "a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action." (2018) It is important for future providers and health care advocates to understand each of these definitions, and what they entail, as they do not operate in isolation but in contingency with neurophysiological dynamics of the body and the social dynamics of different cultures. 

This matters for providers because it communicates the need to see a person with a disability as a "whole person" with the same healthcare needs as anybody else. Those needs may be exacerbated and complicated by an impairment or limitation, which is why efforts to promote health for people with disabilities should not focus on dismantling an impairment, but rather on adapting existing healthcare spaces and technologies such that primary health needs can be met with as little discomfort as possible. 

For instance, barriers that can be adapted (or eradicated) range from architectural and programmatic accessibility and compliance, adaptive medical/examination equipment, legible signage, ASL interpreters, trained personnel, healthcare costs, and physical location. (NCD.gov, 2009

On this page, you will find information explaining how providers, policy makers, and community members can work towards readjusting these barriers. 

NOTE: Healthcare inequities tied to disabilities are difficult to define because, at least in the United States, disability is a strikingly misunderstood term that is often co-opted as an umbrella for physical/mobile impairments, intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, and behavioral/personality disorders. While all of these syndromes may involve lack of access (accessibility/inaccessibility being the primary means of defining disability/ability), they are not necessarily the same. Further, syndromes involving disabilities occur along spectrums in isolation and conjunction of one another. That said, for the purposes of this guide, physical/mobile impairments is contained on one page even though there are developmental and intellectual disabilities that involve physical/mobile impairment. Additionally, behavioral and mental health issues are included alongside developmental/intellectual disabilities and collapsed under the term cognitive disability. 


 Resources for persons with physical/mobile disabilities 

Long-term health care reform must include the voices of people with disabilities... 

-- National Council on Disability, 2009

 Disparities for persons with developmental / behavioral disabilities: 

Similar to the mobile disabilities listed in the first tab, the presence of developmental disabilities as well as behavioral illnesses are evidenced by their interactions with other bodily processes, diagnostic standards, and societal determinants. Additionally, persons with developmental/behavioral disabilities historically have been excluded from healthcare and biomedical research in the United States.

For these reasons, disabilities can be difficult to identify and treat, since meaningful intervention requires changing cultural structures to become accessible and inclusive (Hatton & Emerson, 2015). However, accessible inclusivity is still possible, particularly as phenomenologies and epistemologies of disability begin to develop. In order to help aid this development, providers, researchers, and policy makers should also form an understanding of the health care disparities already prevalent for people who exhibit expansive differences in cognitive ability.

This page provides broad information explaining how providers, researchers, policy makers, and community members can build equity while learning how bodily ability, mental health, and social structures intersect to inform health care disparities affected people with cognitive disabilities.

NOTE: Healthcare inequities tied to disabilities are difficult to define because, at least in the United States, disability is a strikingly misunderstood term that is often co-opted as an umbrella for physical/mobile impairments, intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, and behavioral/personality disorders. While all of these syndromes may involve lack of access (accessibility/inaccessibility being the primary means of defining disability/ability), they are not necessarily the same. Further, syndromes involving disabilities occur along spectrums in isolation and conjunction of one another. That said, for the purposes of this guide, physical/mobile impairments is contained on one page even though there are developmental and intellectual disabilities that involve physical/mobile impairment. Additionally, behavioral and mental health issues are included alongside developmental/intellectual disabilities and collapsed under the term cognitive disability. 


 Resources for persons with physical/mobile disabilities 

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