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Disability Awareness

This topic guide is an introduction to disability awareness that includes resources for research and informal learning.


The Disability Awareness LibGuide in intended as an introduction to the topic of disability in its myriad forms, a resource guide for disability research, and a landing page for disability and accessibility resources on campus.

What is Disability?

A disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).

There are many types of disabilities, such as those that affect a person’s:

  • Vision
  • Movement
  • Thinking
  • Remembering
  • Learning
  • Communicating
  • Hearing
  • Mental health
  • Social relationships

Although “people with disabilities” sometimes refers to a single population, this is actually a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. Two people with the same type of disability can be affected in very different ways. Some disabilities may be hidden or not easy to see.

According to the World Health Organization, disability has three dimensions:

  • Impairment in a person’s body structure or function, or mental functioning; examples of impairments include loss of a limb, loss of vision or memory loss.
  • Activity limitation, such as difficulty seeing, hearing, walking, or problem solving.
  • Participation restrictions in normal daily activities, such as working, engaging in social and recreational activities, and obtaining health care and preventive services.

What is Disability Awareness?

The biggest barrier people with disabilities encounter are other people. Disability Awareness means educating people regarding disabilities and giving people the knowledge required to carry out a job or task, thus separating good practice from poor. It is no longer enough just to know that disability discrimination is unlawful.

For instance, disability awareness relates to topics such as a recent paper released by the Council for Disability Awareness that examines the lack of awareness of the risks and the financial burden that an unexpected accident or illness can have on retirement savings.

Even though 3 in 10 workers entering the workforce today will become disabled before retiring, disability is often overlooked as a threat to long-term financial security.

Hidden Disability Awareness

People with hidden disabilities often do not feel like they belong within the disability community because they are not considered to be "disabled enough" to fit into the group.
People with hidden disabilities are caught between not being fully accepted as people without disabilities, and not being recognized as having "real" disabilities.


U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2020, Sept 16). Disability & health overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Disabled World. (2022, April 5). Disability awareness: Information, programs and event dates.


Disabled World. (2011, Sept 1). Disability or disabled? Which term is right?