Office for Victims of Crime
Community-level Replication Guide
 September 2012 Text size: decrease font size increase font size   Send e-mail icon

printer icon Printer-friendly version
Step 5. Taking Measure
Educate Staff on the Definition of Disability

What is a disability?1 During this project, agency staff, volunteers, and crime victims with evident disabilities themselves struggled to answer that question.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person with a disability has difficulty performing any of the following tasks (or has a record of or is perceived as having difficulty):

  • General life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Examples of disabilities in this category could include intellectual and developmental disabilities, cystic fibrosis, blindness or low vision, Deaf or hard of hearing, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, and so forth.
  • Major bodily functions, such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. Examples of disabilities in this category could include cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and heart disease.

Further, according to the ADA, a person is still considered to have a disability even if the condition—

  • Is treatable with medication (e.g., mental illness, diabetes).
  • Can be addressed with the help of assistive technology (e.g., prosthetics for missing limbs, power wheelchairs).
  • Happens intermittently if the condition would be substantially limiting when active (e.g., seizure disorder, some forms of mental illness).
  • Is in remission if the condition would be substantially limiting when active (e.g., multiple sclerosis, cancer).

Adopt the ADA standard definition of disability, and ensure that all partners use it to keep reporting consistent.

1 This section’s definitions were adapted from the ADA’s definition of disability and from B. East, Advocacy, Inc., (now Disability Rights–Texas), personal communication, June 15, 2010.