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A disability is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these. It substantially affects a person's life activities and may be present from birth or occur during a person's lifetime.

Disability is a contested concept, with different meanings in different communities. It may be used to refer to physical or mental attributes that some institutions, particularly medicine, view as needing to be fixed (the medical model). It may refer to limitations imposed on people by the constraints of an ableist society (the social model). Or the term may serve to refer to the identity of disabled people. Physiological functional capacity (PFC) is a related term that describes an individual's performance level. It gauges one's ability to perform the physical tasks of daily life and the ease with which these tasks are performed. PFC declines with advancing age to result in frailty, cognitive disorders or physical disorders, all of which may lead to labeling individuals as disabled.

The discussion over disability's definition arose out of disability activism in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1970s, which challenged how the medical concept of disability dominated perception and discourse about disabilities. Debates about proper terminology and their implied politics continue in disability communities and the academic field of disability studies. In some countries, the law requires that disabilities are documented by a healthcare provider in order to assess qualifications for disability benefits.

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Boy with Down syndrome assembling a bookcase
Down syndrome (DS or DNS), also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability. The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is 50, equivalent to the mental ability of an 8 or 9-year-old child, but this can vary widely.

The parents of the affected individual are typically genetically normal. The probability increases from less than 0.1% in 20-year-old mothers to 3% in those age 45. The extra chromosome is believed to occur by chance, with no known behavioral activity or environmental factor that changes the probability. Down syndrome can be identified during pregnancy by prenatal screening followed by diagnostic testing or after birth by direct observation and genetic testing. Since the introduction of screening, pregnancies with the diagnosis are often terminated. Regular screening for health problems common in Down syndrome is recommended throughout the person's life.

There is no cure for Down syndrome. Education and proper care have been shown to improve quality of life. Some children with Down syndrome are educated in typical school classes, while others require more specialized education. Some individuals with Down syndrome graduate from high school, and a few attend post-secondary education. In adulthood, about 20% in the United States do paid work in some capacity, with many requiring a sheltered work environment. Support in financial and legal matters is often needed. Life expectancy is around 50 to 60 years in the developed world with proper health care.

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Bell is still in his wheelchair which is on its side, Giles is lying face down, back arched, arms outstretched, on the rotating upper wheel
AXIS Dance Company members Sonsherée Giles and Rodney Bell perform a dance piece by Joe Goode. Photo credit: Brian Rdzak-Martin

Selected biography

Jagadguru Rambhadracharya delivering a sermon on October 25, 2009
Jagadguru Rambhadracharya

Jagadguru Rambhadracharya (January 14, 1950 –), born Giridhar Mishra, is an acclaimed scholar, educationist, polyglot, composer, orator, philosopher and Hindu religious leader based in Chitrakuta, Uttar Pradesh, India. Blind himself, he is the founder and lifelong chancellor of the Jagadguru Rambhadacharya Handicapped University in Chitrakuta, which is the first university in the world to offer graduate and postgraduate courses exclusively to the four types of disabled students – visually impaired, hearing impaired, mobility impaired and mentally impaired. He can speak 22 languages, and is a spontaneous poet (Āśukavi) and composer in Sanskrit, Hindi, Awadhi, Maithili and several other languages. He cannot read or write, as he does not use the Braille system, but learns by listening and composes by dictating to scribes.

Giridhara lost his eyesight at the age of two months, after his eyes were infected by Trachoma. There were no advanced facilities for treatment in his village. He was taken to a local quack, an elderly woman who was known to cure Trachoma. She poured a hot concoction in the baby's eyes to burst the Trachoma lumps, but the eyes started bleeding and the baby lost its eyesight. To restore his eyesight, he was taken by his family to various Ayurvedic, Homeopathic, Allopathic and alternate medicine physicians in other cities, but to no avail. Giridhara Mishra has been blind ever since.


The Disability WikiProject is a project that helps to assemble writers and editors interested in Disability related articles. The aim of this project is to co-ordinate the improvement and creation of articles.

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