Disabilities are conventionally defined in medical science on a three point scale established by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1980 ranging from impairments, disabilities and handicaps. These are:
The relation between these three concepts of impairment, disability and handicap is very subtle. If a person has lost a leg, the loss of the leg is the impairment. The disability would be inability to perform all activities related to the leg, primarily walking. The handicap would relate this disability to the person’s role in society, and for the same disability, i.e. inability to walk, the handicap would vary according to the person’s economic background, job and distance that he would need to walk every day.
REHABILITATION OF THE PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
‘Rehabilitation of the handicapped’ is relatively a modern concept evolved within the first half of the 20th century. The new concept of ‘Rehabilitation’ originated in 1907, when Pasteur started a school for vocational training in Belgium, for such pupils as were found too unfit to be admitted to normal training courses. It was only after the World War II that the term “rehabilitation” came to be used in connection with the disabled veterans.
According to the definition adopted by the International Labour Conference (June 1955), rehabilitation means “restoring of handicapped persons to the fullest possible physical, mental, social, vocational and economic usefulness of which they are capable.”
Or it is the utilization of the existing capacities of the handicapped person, by the combined and coordinated use of medical, social, educational and vocational measures to the optimum level of his functional ability. It makes his life more meaningful, more productive and therefore worthwhile living.
Rehabilitation involves the whole range of services from the time of onset of the individual’s disability to the point at which he is restored to normal activity or the nearest possible approach to it. Rehabilitation is not merely a treatment but a way of life. It commences with the onset of disability and goes right on through the different phases until the disabled person is once again in the society to which he rightfully belongs. The fundamental goal of rehabilitation is to “add life to years; not years to life”.