University of Edinburgh

Vision for Doing

Assessing Functional Vision of Learners who are Multiply Disabled

Use of Terminology

Throughout this book we have used the terms Impairment, Disability and Handicap in a certain way. Our use is in line with that suggested by the World Health Organisationa. Here we set out that use of terminology.

An impairment occurs when a condition (such as cerebral palsy) results in some bodily function being affected. Examples of such limitations (not drawn from cerebral palsy!) might include having no teeth, chronic bronchitis or difficulty with seeing. Some of these impairments may, and some may not, result in disability, that is, a person's functioning may, as a consequence of the impairment(s), become limited. In the examples we have given above, chronic bronchitis may result in great difficulty walking upstairs; impairment to sight may make it difficult to walk around; impairment to sight and, in the same person, to cognitive functioning, may make it difficult to read letters and words. In common with others, we feel it is important to draw a distinction between these disabilities and the term handicap.

A handicap is the result of the person's environment being unable to accommodate his or her disability or disabilities. As a result ther person's social functioning may then be severely limited. It is often easier to change the physical environment - such as installing wheelchair access to buildings - that it is to alter the social environment, involving changing radically society's attitude to disability.

In using the terms he and she we have aimed to strike a balance, while retaining grammatical and semantic sense. We favour the term learner for two reasons. It conveys a reference to people of a wide age range and it suggests ability rather than disability. Where appropriate, we make occasional specific reference to child(ren), young people or adults.