Photo shows SG Enable Inclusion Champion conducting a Disability Awareness workshop.
Disability Awareness

What are disabilities?

Physical Disability

Photo shows a wheelchair user exiting an elevator.

Physical disability refers to either a total or partial loss of bodily functions such as the ability to walk, or a total or partial loss of a part of the body.

Physical disabilities can result from congenital causes, or are acquired later in life, as a result of accidents or medical conditions such as stroke or infections.

Some examples of congenital physical disabilities include muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease), spina bifida and spinal muscular atrophy.

Sensory Disability

Photo shows a person with visual impairment being assisted by another commuter at the bus interchange.
Photo shows person with hearing loss engaging in a discussion with his colleagues.

There are two types of sensory disability, namely visual impairment, and deafness and/or hard of hearing.


Visual impairment refers to significant visual loss that cannot be corrected by means of the use of optical lenses, medication or operation. There are also varying degrees of visual impairment. Some people have low vision, others have tunnel vision in which their peripheral vision may be affected, while others experience complete blindness.


Deafness and/or hard of hearing refers to the partial or complete loss in one or both ears. There are 3 main types of hearing loss – conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.


Conductive hearing loss largely affects the external ear, and results in the reduction of sound intensity, or “loudness”.


Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear, and while it also reduces sound intensity, it also introduces an element of distortion, which results in muffled sounds even when they are loud enough.


Mixed hearing loss is the combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Intellectual Disability

Photo shows a mother embracing her son who has down syndrome.

Intellectual disability is mainly characterised by a measure of the intelligence quotient (IQ), as well as limitations in adaptive functioning. Some of these functions include academic functioning, social functioning and practical functioning.


Mild intellectual disability (MID) is characterised as having between 50-70 IQ. Persons with below 50 IQ are characterised as having moderate to severe intellectual disability.

Photo shows a youth with autism, walking in the rain with her father.

Autism is a developmental disability currently with no known causes or cures. Persons with autism typically have problems with social communication and interaction across contexts, and present very rigid and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.


Some characteristics of persons with autism may include absence of speech, lack of responsiveness to others, repetitive motor behaviours and extreme withdrawal symptoms. There may also be difficulties in understanding verbal and non-verbal communication, such as gestures, facial expressions and body language. Autism presents itself in different ways and in varying degrees. Each person with autism you meet is a unique individual!



Do You Know?