Mental Health


Statistics (HSCIC, 2013) reveal that only 205 out of 156,555 adults from Chinese backgrounds with a physical disability in England, received services provided or commissioned by local authority adult social care (Yeung, Partridge, Irvine, 2015). From this figure we can assume that there may be an issue with access to services and how physical disability may be understood across cultures.  In this section we are going to explore what disability means, think about some of the causes of disability and signpost you to services which specialise in working with such groups of people.

According to United Kingdom (UK) law (Equality Act, 2010) you are disabled ‘…if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’ (Gov.UK). The term substantial means it would take longer than usual to finish a daily task such as getting dressed.  Long-term means the impairment is long lasting (12 months or more).  For example, a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection.

Disability, or sometimes referred to as impairment, can be separated broadly into three groups; acquired, developmental and physical.

An acquired impairment

An acquired impairment can occur at any time of life to any individual.  For example:

  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Spinal Cord Injury

Developmental impairment

These can have developed before birth or from diseases which disrupt or delay the rate of growth and development.  Sometimes these are referred to as ‘learning disabilities’ but are not limited to only learning (please see our page on learning disability).  For example:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Dyslexia
  • Down’s Syndrom
  • Learning Disability

Physical impairment

Many causes and conditions can be associated with physical impairment.  For example, reduced or no use of legs, arms, or torso (body trunk) effectively because of paralysis, stiffness, pain, or other impairments is common.  For instance:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Amputation
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Parkinson’s disease

These may be the result of conditions before birth, disease, age and/or accidents. People with physical impairments may find it difficult to participate when facing social and physical barriers.

These causes can be explored further by visiting disability organisations such as scope, the disabilities trust and the Leonard Cheshire Foundation.

Further information

If you need more information on disability and impairment, then please click on these disability organisations links below:

It is important to remember that whatever cause, label or diagnosis disabled people have been given, they are people first.  It is not about concentrating solely on identified classification, it is also about spending time to get to know and understand the individual person holistically (Thomas, 2004).