In general, a person with a disability is a someone who has a long-term physical, hearing, seeing, cognitive, mental or emotional impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. Disability, however, occurs on a continuum and there is no clearly defined line between those who have a disability and those who do not.
The definition of disability varies based on the purpose of defining it. The ADA definition differs from the definition used by the Social Security Administration because one is used to protect civil rights and one is used to provide cash benefits.
The “social model” says that disability is an interaction between the person and the environment—that people are limited by barriers in society, not solely by their disability. These barriers can be physical, programmatic or attitudinal. Therefore, our job is to adjust the financial environment to meet the needs of all.
The disability population is diverse in terms of disability characteristics (the type and severity of the disability and the age at which the disability was acquired) and lived experience.
There are between 40-57 million people with disabilities in the United States, which is about 13-20 percent of population.