Physical disability (PD) is a term that causes many people to feel shame and pity while for others attracts consideration and special care. However it affects us, it always encourages the physically disabled when positive social responses are shown them.

Physical disability in many cases involves mild to extensive loss of motor activity, skills and touch. Human motor actions enable us to carry out basic life actions such as transferring, lifting, movement and proper posturing including activities such as eating, showering and toileting.

Types of Physical Disability (PD)

PD could be minor or major. Minor PD involves cases such as ‘clumsiness and coordination developmental disorder’ while major PD refers to conditions such as ‘cerebral palsy, autism and spina bifida’

(Miyahara & Piek 2006).

Many people consider learning disabilities a subset of minor physical disabilities, however minor PD includes more.

If you want to understand more about learning disabilities, please read our article on lnsight on assessment, causes and management of learning disabilities.

Causes of Physical Disability

One of the commonest causes of PD is cerebral palsy (CP) (Dew, Balandin & Lewellyn 2008).

Stanley et al. (2000) cited in Dew, Balandin and Lewellyn (2008) explains that cerebral palsy is an ‘umbrella term for heterogeneous group of chronic non-progressive motor impairment syndromes’.

Furthermore, Accardo et al. (1996) cited in Dew, Balandin and Lewellyn (2008) noted that CP could be ‘characterized by disordered movement and posture and delayed motor movement’.

‘Severe arthritis, repetitive strain injury, nerve and muscle diseases or injury and muscular dystrophy’ are some examples of conditions that limit motor movement associated with PD (Belcastro 2005, p. 237).

Strategies to manage Physical Disability

The strategy to manage PD as a tertiary or college student includes the use of appropriate technology and engagements that minimize negative perception of the PD.

Especially for students whose disability limits movement, voice recognition software that enables voice control of computers will assist with carrying out some student tasks.

Some software with this capability includes QPointer Voice, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 7 and IBM Via Voice Advanced Edition.

Tasks such as creating, modifying and saving documents are made easy. Surfing the internet, sending and receiving emails, managing desktop applications and carrying out instant messaging are additional possibilities (Belcastro 2005).

Some computer training will be required just like anyone interested in learning the use of a new computer application but in the end learning will be more enjoyable again.

Furthermore, research suggests that involvement in physical activity enhances social acceptance of PD children since it projects a perception of competence, warmth and active living.

This enhanced social acceptance also moderates the pity, stigma, shame and discrimination and other negative behaviors often unknowingly displayed by people not considered disable.

Hence wherever possible, getting involved in physical activities in college is expected to produce this same desirable effects and make more students around you feel a warm association (Barg et al. 2010).

Do not be afraid to laugh off mistakes with friends in the process because this works better in many instances than retreating to the silent world of loneliness.

Are you a female with PD and perhaps worrying that being romantically attractive to someone is impossible? It is reassuring that is not the case.

In fact, recent research has yielded no evidence to suggest that romantic relationships are off limits as a result of the presence of a PD

(Man et al. 2006).


This research investigated aspects of physical disability as it relates to students especially in the colleges and universities.

PD was found to be broadly divided into two types namely minor (clumsiness) and major (autism, cerebral palsy and spina bifida).

Cerebral palsy was found to be the major cause of physical disability.

Various strategies such as use of appropriate technology and an active physically engaging lifestyle were recommended to ensure learning is enjoyable and discriminatory behaviors are reduced.

The use of voice controlled computers enabled with voice recognition software was discussed.

Finally, the disability of today might well be enabled tomorrow just as the disability of the past are no more considered terminal disability.

With more education, research, availability of information, support and natural appreciation for hard work, the PD student can confidently break more grounds to succeed despite any limitation.

Find out how we can provide you a highly customized research...


Barg, C., J, Armstrong, B., D, Hetz, S., P & Latimer, A., E (2010), ‘Physical disability, stigma and physical activity in children’, International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, vol. 54, no. 4, pp. 371-382.

Belcastro, F., P (2005), ‘Electronic technology: hope for rural gifted students who have motor impairments of the hands’, Journal of Development and Physical Disabilities’, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 237-247.

Dew, D, Balandin, S, & Lewellyn, G., L (2008), ‘The psychosocial impact on siblings of people with lifelong physical disability: a review of the literature’, Journal of Development and Physical Disabilities, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 485-507.

Man, M, Rojahn, J, Chrosniak, L & Sanford, J (2006), ‘College students romantic attraction toward peers with physical disabilities’, Journal of development and Physical Disabilities, vol. 1, no. 1.

Miyahara, M & Piek, J (2006), ‘Self-esteem of children and adolescents with physical disabilities: quantitative evidence from meta-analysis’, Journal of Development and Physical Disabilities, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 219-234.

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