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RE: Issues: Part 2 - #16 through #43

From: Denis Anson <danson@miseri.edu>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 08:33:42 -0500
To: "Ian Jacobs" <ij@w3.org>
Cc: "Bryan Campbell" <bryany@pathcom.com>, <w3c-wai-ua@w3.org>

You are quite right.  You cannot properly say that the person has a
disability.  They may have an impairment or a functional limitation, but
they have disabilities only in certain environments.  And, in fact, that is
what the accessibility project is about: defining the environment in which
various functional limitations and impairments do *not* lead to

I would say that we should be very careful in the use of this terminology,
because it actually allows a much better understanding of the issues of
disability and impairment than just throwing the terms around at random.

Denis Anson, MS, OTR
Assistant Professor
College Misericordia
301 Lake St.
Dallas, PA 18612

Member since 1989:
RESNA: An International Association of Assistive Techology Professionals
Website: http://www.resna.org
ORLANDO, FL, JUNE 28 -- July 2, 2000

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ua-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ua-request@w3.org]On Behalf
Of Ian Jacobs
Sent: Monday, November 29, 1999 10:21 PM
To: Denis Anson
Cc: Bryan Campbell; w3c-wai-ua@w3.org
Subject: Re: Issues: Part 2 - #16 through #43

Denis Anson wrote:
> Under the WHO/NIDRR model of disability, impairments and disabilities are
> two different things.  An impairment is caused by pathophysiology, and
> describes the inability to contract the muscles of the lens of the eye, to
> contract a muscle, and similar types of difficulties.  A "functional
> limitation" is the inability to perform an action because of an
> A person who is unable to discriminate text below 14 pt. has a functional
> limitation.  A disability is the inability to perform a task in the
> environment under consideration.  The inability to read a web page that is
> displayed in a small font is a disability.
> Note that these are medical terminology, and have specific meanings.
> the term "visual impairment" is exactly the right term for us to use when
> talking about accommodating to a persons abilities so that they have
> If we do not accommodate, then the person has a disability.

This suggests to me that it is incorrect to say that someone
"has a disability period". You may say that a person "has a visual
impairment period" or that the person "has a disability in this
context", but you would not be able to discuss a disability out of

Does this mean we should adopt very careful language to respect
this distinction? Or does this mean that we can more casually exchange
the terms and not offend nor cause misunderstanding?

 - Ian
Received on Tuesday, 30 November 1999 08:31:41 UTC

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