Persons with Disabilities: Definition, Rights, States and More

Who is a Person with Disability?

Persons with Disabilities (singular Person with Disability, abbreviated as PwD) are people affected with one or more types of disability. The definition of a person with disability varies from place-to-place as various local/national laws define disability differently. However, in general, a person with disability is someone who has a physical, mental or emotional condition that keeps her from living a social/functional life which is deem to be normal for their peers. There is a lack of consensus as to what is the appropriate term to denote a person with disability. Therefore, there is no globally-accepted appropriate terminology. In different cultures and languages, a person with disability is addressed differently. Some of the common terms used for a person with disability are:

  • Disabled Person
  • Physically Challenged Person
  • Handicapped Person
  • Divyangjan (in India)
  • Differently-abled Person
  • Person with Special Needs (used mostly for persons with mental, intellectual or developmental disabilities)
  • Special Person

Apart from the above,  a person with disability may also be denoted with terms pointing to the specific disabling condition. More often than not, derogatory terms are also used in connection with the PwD.

Rights of a Person with Disability?

UNCRPD, a global convention under the aegis of the United Nations ensures that all the persons with disabilities get same rights irrespective of their nationality, gender, religion, language or any other criteria. The signatory nations of the UNCRPD are expected to formulate laws for providing rights to persons with disabilities in accordance with the Convention. For example, USA has the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), India has Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPWD Act) and UK has The Equality Act 2010.

State of the Persons with Disability

The overall state of persons with disabilities significantly vary in different countries. Nevertheless, the overall state has a lot of scope for improvement, especially in developing and poor countries. In general, western countries (in North America and Europe) fare better in providing rights and facilities to the PwD. In countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and a host of African countries, the government efforts are often marred by corruption, inefficient implementation and cultural bias towards PwD.

images depicting persons with disabilities

Famous Persons with Disabilities

Although disability poses great challenges in anyone’s life — it can not stop those who are determined to achieve their dreams. There are a number of Celebrities with Disabilities around the world. Icons like Helen Keller are global phenomena and they inspire mankind all over the planet. These famous people with disabilities assert that human will is more powerful than the challenge of disability.

The Term “Person with Disability” in Other Languages

Following table contains translation of the term “Person with Disability” in prominent languages of the world.

LanguageSymbolTranslation of “Person with Disability”
BulgarianbgЛице с увреждания
Chinese Traditionalzh-tw殘障人士
DanishdaPerson med handicap
EstonianetPuuetega inimene
FrenchfrPersonne handicapée
Hebrewiwאדם עם מוגבלות
Vietnamesevingười khuyến tật
TurkishtrEngelli Birey
Tamiltaஊனமுற்ற நபர்
SpanishesPersona con discapacidad
SerbiansrОсоба са инвалидитетом
Portugueseptpessoa com deficiência
Marathimrअपंग व्यक्ती, दिव्यांगजन
LithuanianltAsmuo su negalia
UkrainianukЛюдина з обмеженими можливостями
Teluguteవైకల్యం ఉన్న వ్యక్తి
Swedishsvperson med handikapp
SlovakskOsoba so zdravotným postihnutím
RomanianroPersoană cu dizabilități
NorwegiannoPerson med funksjonshemning
MalaymsOrang Kurang Upaya
Indonesianidseseorang dengan kebutuhan khusus
GermandePerson mit Behinderung
FilipinotlTaong may Kapansanan
DutchnlPersoon met een handicap
CroatianhrOsoba s invaliditetom
CatalancaPersona amb discapacitat
Arabicarشخص من ذوي الاحتياجات الخاصة
Bengalibnপ্রতিবন্ধী ব্যক্তি
Chinese Simplifiedzh-cn残障人士
CzechcsOsoba se zdravotním postižením
EsperantoeoPersono kun Handikapo
FinnishfiVammainen henkilö
Greekelάτομο με ειδικές ανάγκες
Italianitpersona con disabilità
LatvianlvPersona ar invaliditāti
Malayalammlവൈകല്യമുള്ള വ്യക്തി
PolishplOsoba niepełnosprawna
RussianruЧеловек с ограниченными возможностями
SlovenianslInvalidna oseba
TajiktgШахси маъюб
Urduurمعذوری والا شخص
Hindihiअपंग व्यक्ति, दिव्यांगजन
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5 thoughts on “Persons with Disabilities: Definition, Rights, States and More”

    1. Hi Ruth, there is no difference between these two terms. It’s just that some people like to use disabled person and some others like to use persons with disabilities.

      1. If a student is unable to remember the learned part after 20 min, can we consider this under intellectual disability.

  1. I wish that more people refrained from judging whether a person seems disabled or not. If a person can walk some, but not much, they may still need a wheelchair, so if you see someone stand and walk a bit it doesn’t mean they aren’t disabled. And being overweight and in a wheelchair doesn’t mean is lazy or “just needs to lose weight and will be fine”. There are many conditions and medications that lead to obesity, and people who jump to conclusions may be way off and just add to the problems disabled people have already.

    I agree on the problem of inaccessible ramps and the locations of disabled parking. Often the spots are way away from the building, and I have stopped, sighed, and driven off more than once. Sadly, many times this happens at doctors’ offices.


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