Disability: Personal Problem or Structural Issue?


Disability is the impairment of the mind or body that limits the person with the condition from performing certain activities. World Health Organization (WHO) defines this term as an umbrella covering restriction on participation, limitation on activities, and impairments (Frier et al., 2018). The various complex impact that disability has on life is recognized in the WHO definition of disability. According to Frier et al. (2018), restriction on participation hinders a person from taking part in life activities; limitation on activity is a challenge faced by a person when acting. Finally, impairment is a difficulty in body structure or function. Therefore, disability is viewed as a multifaceted incident that represents an interaction between parts of an individual’s body and the environment where he/she lives.

People who can Become Disabled and History of disability

Everyone in life can at some point become physically or mentally challenged. In addition, people who survive till old age face challenges performing daily activities (Understanding disability 2021, p. 3). The majority of extended families tend to have someone who lives with a disability, and non-disabled individuals take the responsibility of supporting and taking care of their relative (Understanding disability 2021, p. 3). Traditionally, persons with disabilities have been given solutions that separate them, such as special schools and residential institutions (Understanding disability 2021, p. 3). However, strategies have now drifted towards education, community inclusion, and explanations. They focus on medication and have given different interactive approaches that enable people to understand that disability is caused by one’s body formation and social structural factors.

Challenges of Disabled People

Over the past years, the movement of disabled people in association with social and health science researchers has acknowledged the work of physical and social obstacles in disability. Transiting from a personal, medical perception to a social structural viewpoint has been said to be the transfer from a “medical model” to a “social model”; individuals are termed as disabled by society compared to their bodies (Understanding disability 2021, p. 4). The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) admits that disability is “an evolving concept.” CRPD further ascertains that “disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments, attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and equal participation in society” (Understanding disability 2021, p. 4). Therefore, disability through relations implies that it is not an individual’s feature. However, efforts to advance social participation can be made by dealing with obstacles that hold back disabled people in their daily lives.

People living with disabilities face various challenges in different countries. In Ireland, persons living with a disability are the most neglected (The National Disability Authority, 2021, para. 1). Before the 21st century, many disabled people suffered unbearable circumstances due to obsolete economic and social policies and unthinking public attitudes (The National Disability Authority, 2021, para. 1). However, changes have started to appear powered by the global acknowledgment that disability is not a medical but a social issue. Nonetheless, most of these transformations are taking place slowly thus are hard to realize (The National Disability Authority, 2021, para. 1). Additionally, many people in Ireland today focus on assisting disabled people rather than understanding their rights. Thus, the probability is that these people will always be against the rights of persons with disabilities. Therefore, even though the challenges of disabled people are viewed as housing, mobility, education, or economic requirements, they will always be termed as low-class citizens in society.

One of the most remarkable features affecting people with disabilities is the level of dissatisfaction they receive. The National Disability Authority (2021, para. 3) claims that the frustration is not centered on personal experiences of impairment function, discomfort, or physical pain. It is not neither centered on the state of various hindering circumstances nor on the question “why me.” In contrast, the annoyance results from the feeling that they are placed in a state of being required to deal with lots of unfair social obstacles apart from their disabling physical conditions (The National Disability Authority, 2021, para. 3). Therefore, it is evident that disability in Ireland is propagated by people’s social perspectives towards physically disabled persons.

Disability as a Social Problem in the Society

Being physically challenged is viewed as a social problem in society today. Social problems originate from the mistakes in the society’s structure that reflect unfairness based on how people view disability (Sociological Perspectives on Social Problems, 2021, para 1). Disability is viewed in terms of personal misfortune or blame (Sociological Perspectives on Social Problems 2021, para 1). In addition, people build their roles during their interaction; they never follow society’s roles. According to Why is Disability Viewed as a Social Problem? (2021, para 1), disability issues have been theorized in various ways where most people major on the person’s problem rather than the broader economic, political, and social influences. For that reason, this creates implications on where to locate the blame for social problems thus become depoliticized. Now, because most governments are reluctant to help disabled people, disability becomes a social problem, and every time, the duty of care rests in these people’s families.


To conclude, this paper has defined disability and how people in society view people living with a disability. Therefore, being disabled depends on one’s interaction between his body and the surrounding society. However, communities are being taught the importance of including people living with disabilities in their interactive activities because the significant causes of disability are the structural issues surrounding them in their areas of residence. Therefore, it is true that social structural issues propagate the idea of being disabled in a society that hinders people living with disabilities from adjusting to their needs rather than from their inability to adapt to society’s standards.


Frier, A., Barnett, F., Devine, S. and Barker, R. (2018) “Understanding disability and the ‘social determinants of health’: how does disability affect peoples’ social determinants of health?”. Disability and Rehabilitation, 40(5), pp.538-547.

Sociological Perspectives on Social Problems (2021). Web.

The National Disability Authority (2021). Web.

Understanding disability (2021). Web.

Why is Disability Viewed as a Social Problem? (2021). Web.

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