Who Are People With Severe Disabilities Essay Samples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Disability, People, Psychology, Definition, Life, Skills, Health, Workplace

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/10/11

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Characteristics: Compare and Contrast

People with Severe Disabilities
The population of people with severe disabilities plays an important role in the national and World economy, forming a significant market of consumers and enhancing the diversity of the labor market (Brault, 2012.) There’s no consensus on universal definition of severe disabilities. Individuals differ in the number of functional & other areas in which they need assistance. This paper is aimed at reviewing definitions of people with severe disabilities of TASH, 29 U.S.C 41, NICHCY and CFR 51-1.3in the different contexts, comparing and contrasting these definitions, defining their similarities and differences.
For the purpose of this research definitions of TASH, 29 U.S.C 41, NICHCY and CFR 51-1.3, were found and analyzed. TASH (2011) defines individuals with severe disabilities as people “with disabilities of all age, races, creeds, national origins, genders and sexual orientation who require ongoing support in one or more major life activities in order to participate in an integrated community and enjoy a quality of life similar to that available to all citizens. Support may be required for life activities such as mobility, communication, self-care and learning as necessary for community living, employment and self-sufficiency. Committee for Purchase from People who are Blind or Severely Disabled (41 CFR 51-1.3) gives another brief definition of the analyzed term as “a person other than a blind person who has a severe physical or mental impairment (a residual, limiting condition resulting from an injury, disease, or congenital defect) which so limits the person's functional capabilities (mobility, communication, self-care, self-direction, work tolerance or work skills)” that the person can’t be involved in normal employment for a long time. The other common legal definition of people with severe disabilities (29 U.S.C.) refers to the people “who have a severe physical or mental impairment which seriously limits one or more functional capacities (such as mobility, communication, self-care, self-direction, interpersonal skills, work tolerance, or work skills) in terms of an employment outcome; whose vocational rehabilitation can be expected to require multiple vocational rehabilitation services over an extended period of time; and who has one or more physical or mental disabilities” resulting from a long list of reasons.
NICHCY (2003) gives the following definition: “People with severe disabilities are those who have severe to profound mental retardation. These people require ongoing, extensive support in more than one major life activity in order to participate in integrated community settings and enjoy the quality of life available to people with fewer or no disabilities. They frequently have additional disabilities, including movement difficulties, sensory losses, and behavior problems.” Other sources for example, (U.S. Census, The Americans with Disabilities Act, etc.) give much longer definitions of severe disabilities with a specific set of criteria. It’s necessary to compare and contrast all the definitions from various points of view or aspects: causes, manifestations, impact on life activities, assistance required, etc.

Inclusion of Specific Disabilities

There’s no unified approach regarding exactly what kinds of disabilities or their combination should be considered as severe disabilities. TASH is not specific about types of disabilities. Committee for Purchase from People who are Blind or Severely Disabled (41 CFR 51-1.3) does not list specific kinds of impairments, only exclude blindness, stating that “person with severe disabilities mean a person other than a blind person who has a severe physical or mental impairment (a residual, limiting condition.) The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities gives even more general definition of people with severe disabilities as “having severe to profound mental retardation” (NICHCY, 2003)
There’re some other examples from other agencies. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition also includes a wide range of health conditions, giving only some specific examples of neurological health problems: “a learning disability, mental retardation or other developmental disability, Alzheimer's disease” (as cited in CDBG.) In contrast with the described above attempts to define severe disability, U.S. Census gives more specific criteria for physician and mental conditions, including blindness and deafness, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or senility, development delay, autism, cerebral palsy, ongoing troubles with communicating with others, concentration, coping with stress.
IDEA does not operate the term “severe”, but “multiple disabilities” and “deaf-blind”, emphasizing that the disabilities commonly perceived as “severe” are mostly concomitant impairments (for example, intellectual disability and blindness, development retardation and orthopedic impairment, etc.)
So, many of the above mentioned definition include intellectual disability as a component to be included in the “severe” disability. But some scholars argue that people suffering from severe disabilities may not have intellectual impairments (Taylor, Smiley & Richards, 2009.)

Life Dimensions: Functional Activities, Relationship with the Environment

Taylor, Smiley & Richards think that the reasons of severe disabilities are very different and include diverse biological, genetic or external (environmental) factors (2009.) 29 U.S. Code names the possible causes for severe disability, sometimes mixing up causes (for example, amputation, burn injury, heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc.) and resulting conditions such as autism, blindness, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, deafness, arthritis, respiratory or pulmonary dysfunction, mental retardation or illness, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, hemophilia, etc. TASH definition considers adaptive fit (relationship with the environment including self-care, mobility, learning and communication) as one of key pillars of its definition of “severe disability” (Bowers, 2012.)
Taylor, Smiley & Richards (2009) emphasize that identification of congenital severe disabilities often takes place in early childhood; in some cases severe disabilities, involving intellectual area, can be identified within the school age through IQ tests, dynamic assessments and also adaptive behavior scales.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (as cited in CDBG, 2011) and U.S. Census give the detailed criteria of limited abilities to those people in the following areas: physical senses (seeing, hearing), physical mobility (walking, lifting and carrying, using stairs, which causes necessity of using wheelchair or walker), limited self-care and community living skills (bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, etc.) inability to build relations and communicate properly, medical (like sensory loss, seizures, etc.) and behavioral problems such as injurious behaviors. Adaptive skills are commonly very limited.
Life Dimensions: Intellectual and Learning Abilities. Assistanse. Employment Prospects
NICHCY characterizes people with severe disabilities as those who can easily forget the skills acquired earlier and have trouble generalizing skills and extrapolate them from one setting or situation to another. As the severe disability often includes not only physical impairment but also problems in mental and behavioral area, including work skills and work tolerance, the people have difficulty in finding a job or starting a business and cannot participate in the competitive job market for a long period of time, remaining unemployed. So, this indicator was made one of the criterias of severe disability by many existing classifications in the documents such as 41 CFR 51-1.3, The Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. Census.
29 U.S.C. definition stands apart from others, specifying the aspect of longevity of professional rehabilitation (if, for example, disability is abused by trauma or reversible condition). It states that those individuals can be classified as having “severe disability” whose “rehabilitation can be expected to require multiple vocational rehabilitation services over an extended period of time” (29.U.S.C.)
According to the TASH definition, people with severe disabilities require ongoing support and extensive assistance in one or more life activities (mobility, self-care, learning and communication) “in order to participate in an integrated community and enjoy a quality of life similar to that available to all citizens” (Friend, 2011, as cited in Bowers, 2012.) U.S. Census definition also includes necessity of assistance in basic life functions in the criteria of severe disability.
One of the best approaches in classifying people with severe disabilities is applied by educational institutions. For example, the University of Iowa (Iowa Code, 2015) identifies two categories of people from the point of view of their learning skills: those who cannot be educated with schools for people with special needs and those who are educable, but have some serious physician and/or mental impairments such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, poliomyelitis or other).
Amanda Bowers (2012) gives advanced characteristics of people with severe disabilities regarding their cognitive skills and behavior. The author believes that, though those people have cognitive problems, struggle with mathematics and have hard times practicing verbal communication, they can often be educated successfully to some extent. They need more time learning through practice, with the help of proper motivation and direct instructions. In their behavior, the people with severe disabilities often face a wide range of problems starting from these issues common for the shy young people to serious behavioral disorders including destructive behaviors. It can be challenging for the person themself, for the family and also for the teachers. But all these challenges can be met with the application of proper educational strategies, recommended by a variety of scholars.


As a conclusion, it’s necessary to say, that there’s no unified approach in defining people with severe disabilities. The differentiation of definitions varies a lot from one sentence to a large table with multiple criteria. Some definitions include people of all ages (life, for example, TASH definitions); some are age-specific. Some definitions include blind people (like IDEA’s), some such as 41 CFR 51-1.3 don’t include. Why it’s necessary to focus on definitions? Because criteria included in the definition form the fundamentals for proper policies and interventions, aiming at providing the people with special needs with the good quality of life.


Brault, M.W. (2012). Americans With Disabilities: 2010. Household Economic Studies. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p70-131.pdf
Tailor, R.L., Smiley, L. & Richards, S.B. (2009). Exceptional Students. Preparing Teachers for 21th century. Chapter 12. Retrieved from http://highered.mheducation.com/sites/0072866373/student_view0/chapter12/chapter_summary.html
Bowers, A. Severe and Multiple Disabilities. Retrieved from http://amandabowers.weebly.com/uploads/6/9/8/4/6984200/multiple_and_severe_disabilities_resource_file.pdf
Iowa Code-2015 (2015). University of Iowa. Severe disabilities definition. Retrieved from https://www.legis.iowa.gov/DOCS/ACO/IC/LINC/Section.263.11.pdf
29 U.S. Code Chapter 8 - FAIR LABOR STANDARDS. Individual with severe disabilities: definition. Retrieved from http://www.lectlaw.com/def/i033.htm
CDBG (2011). Severely Disabled Adults Defined. Retrieved from http://www.cityofconcord.org/pdf/community/grants/formsanddocs/SeverelyDisabledAdults.pdf
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). (2003) Severe and/or Multiple Disabilities. NICHCY Fact Sheet 10. Retrieved from https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/teaching/Disabilities/services%20to%20children%20with%20disabilities/disabilities/disabl_fts_00016_061105.html
Severe and Education of individuals With Multiple Disabilities - Definition and Types of Severe and Multiple Disabilities - Students, Mental, Retardation, and Services - StateUniversity.com Retrieved from http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2415/Severe-Multiple-Disabilities-Education-individuals-With.html#ixzz3Ome8xtH1
U.S. Department of Education. Sec. 300.8 Child with a disability. Retrived from http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/,root,regs,300,A,300%252E8,

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