The 6 types of disability characteristics and examples

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Surely you’ve heard to talk about disability. But do you know exactly what it means to have a disability? Did you know that there are up to 6 types of disability?

In this article, we will know these 6 types of disability, and we will analyze their characteristics, causes, and consequences. In addition, we will mention examples of each of them.

What is a disability?

Before explaining the different types of disabilities that exist, we will explain what is meant by disability.

The SAR defines disability as the “disabled condition”. Technically, the prefix “DIS” indicates an “opposition” or a “denial”, so we could think of a “non-capacity”, a “lack of capacity” or a limitation of it, when we talk about disability.

In popular language, a disability is a lack or limitation of some faculty, whether physical or mental; This limitation makes it difficult (or impossible) for the normal development of an activity (or several) in a given person.

Thus, the person who presents a disability will have difficulties to perform certain tasks, so it will be necessary to adapt to the environment or his own condition so that he can perform the said activity.

Types of disability

There are different types of disability: sensory (for example deafness), physical (for example paraplegia), psychic (for example due to schizophrenia), etc.

In this article, we will know the different types of disabilities that exist, their characteristics, causes, examples and what they imply.

1. Physical disabilitytypes of disability

The physical disability, also called motor disability, is one that implies a physical or motor limitation for the person. This translates into a limitation (or impossibility) in their movements.

Its origin can be diverse (for example disease, a spinal cord injury, etc). That is, the causes can be congenital (birth), acquired (following an accident), etc.

Thus, the person with a physical disability will present a reduction of their motor or physical abilities (or even an elimination of them); This is extrapolated to its extremities (upper, lower or both).

This condition will limit their participation in certain activities, for example climbing a mountain in a person who is in a wheelchair, although it is true that with technological advances these people can increasingly live a more normalized life, and participate in practically all the activities that are proposed, through adapted tools or devices (for example a “batec.” that is to say, a motorized wheelchair that works with the arms, the splints to eat, etc).


Some examples of physical disability are paraplegia (unable to move the legs), tetraplegia (unable to move neither arms or legs), hemiplegia (unable to move one side of the body), spina bifida, cerebral palsy (which may also involve a disability intellectual), muscular dystrophy, amputation, etc.

2. Intellectual disabilitytypes of disability

The second of the types of disability we are going to talk about is intellectual disability. Intellectual disability implies a limitation in the intellectual functioning of the person, as well as a deficit in their adaptive capacity. This limitation translates into difficulties in the academic or labor field, in social participation, in the habits of autonomy, etc.

Logically, there are different types of intellectual disability (mild, moderate, severe and profound), and each of them will imply diverse consequences (and a greater or lesser affectation). A person is considered to have an intellectual disability when their IQ (IQ) is less than 70.

In addition, in the different diagnostic manuals (ICD-10 and DSM-5) it is required that the person has expressed the aforementioned difficulties before the age of 18 so that he can be diagnosed with an intellectual disability.

On the other hand, people with intellectual disabilities have a lower performance if we compare them with their reference group (by age, evolutionary moment and schooling). That is, its performance is lower than that of the average, and its difficulties in the aforementioned areas are greater.

The causes of the different types of intellectual disability are diverse: Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, cerebral palsy, Williams syndrome, Angelman syndrome, infections, trauma (before and after birth), autism (different neurodevelopmental disorders), etc.

3. Sensory disabilitytypes of disability

The third of the types of disability is a sensory disability. Sensory disability implies the existence of certain limitations, generated by an injury or deficit in one (or more) of the senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste). The sensory organs are what allow us, through our own senses, to capture and perceive the reality of the environment (its stimuli).

The causes of sensory disability can be diverse, both environmental and congenital (birth).


There are different types of sensory disability (one for each sense), although the most frequent are those that affect sight (visual impairment; for example blindness) and hearing (hearing impairment; for example deafness).

4. Psychic disability

Psychic disability is usually caused by a mental disorder. The mental disorder causes alterations and difficulties in the person when it comes to being autonomous in his life, adapting to different circumstances, relating properly, having a good quality of life, etc.

However, not all mental disorders generate the same type of difficulties (since it is not the same to suffer from a depression greater than schizophrenia), and on the other hand, the environment can greatly favor the fact that the person has a good quality of life and adapt to the vital circumstances.

Thus, the causes of different types of psychic disability, as in the other types of disability, can also be multiple: depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, behavior disorder, organic syndrome, head trauma (which can change the personality of the person), etc.

5. Multiple disabilities

Multiple disabilities are usually the most serious of all since it combines some of the previous types of disability; It is usually the combination of more than one physical and sensory limitation. Its causes are also multiple: congenital (from birth), environmental (due to injury, accidents, etc.), due to illness, etc.


Examples of multiple disabilities are a person with an intellectual disability who is also blind (sensory disability), deafblind people (with more than one sensory disability), a paraplegic and deaf person, etc.

6. Visceral disability

The last type of disability is a visceral disability, less known. It implies a deficit in some internal organs, affecting the day of the person (at a functional, participatory, social level, etc.). Examples of them are: suffering from heart problems (for example some heart disease), having diabetes, etc.

That is, these people present difficulties when it comes to developing a “normal” life, or having a good quality of life.

Bibliographic references

  • American Psychiatric Association –APA- (2014). DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Pan American.
  • WHO (2000). ICD-10. International classification of diseases, tenth edition. Madrid. Pan American
  • Solchaga, MR and Espejo, MG (2004). Analysis of disability and disability in rehabilitation according to the International Classification of Deficiency, Disability, and Disability. Rehabilitation, 38 (4): 151-161.