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What is a Disability?

The concept of disability has been evolving over the past few decades and there has been an awakening and a change in the way how people with disability are understood and perceived.

For the longest time, disability has been viewed as a condition residing in the individual resulting in deficits and hence their inability to be fully functional within the society. Viewed in this manner, people with disability are always deemed as people that requires “fixing” and are less than “optimal”.

This view is the cause and the key reason why I was not given the opportunity to carry on with my housemanship (internship) after I graduated my medical school here in Singapore.

Very closely linked to this concept is the close association of disability with charity or other welfare programs.
In recent years however, there has been a paradigm shift. Increasingly, the focus is no longer on “what is wrong with the individual”, but rather, disability is recognised as “the interaction of a person with impairment with an environment that does not accommodate to the individual’s differences which impedes the individual’s full participation within the society on an equal basis with others (UN Convention 2008)”.

This model brings disability forward. This is more than just a healthcare issue. It is more than just a welfare issue. In fact, the very heart of any form of ability lie is of self-empowerment. The emphasis is now on the attitudes and environmental barriers that hinders participation in society and prevents full expression of the individual to whatever extent they are able to.

I have always believed that disability is only in the mind. With boldness we can step into a new era where we are no longer discounted because of what we cannot do, but we celebrate life according to what we can do!