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Pushing Past Limitations: A Guide to Physical Disabilities

Physical disabilities can either be temporary or permanent and impact the way someone is able to live and function in the world. 

No two disabilities are the same, but regardless of the circumstances, a physical disorder does not need to slow down or hamper someone’s ability to live a full life. 

In this guide, we will take a closer look at the different types of physical disabilities as well as the technology and benefits that are available to make life that much easier.

What are Physical Disorders?

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in four people living in the USA have some form of disability that affects their day-to-day life, with physical disabilities being the most common. 

A physical disability is a disorder that limits a person’s movement and overall functioning due to injury, illness, or a genetic disorder. 

Depending on the type and cause of the disorder, it can lead to temporary, long-term, or permanent changes in someone’s life. 

A Look at the Different Types of Physical Disabilities

Here are some of the most common types of disorders that are deemed to be physical disabilities.

Whether through disease or an accident, someone who loses a limb or requires an amputation is said to have a physical disability, even if a prosthetic is an option. 

Impact on the head, stroke, infections, and even drugs and alcohol can cause a brain injury. The result is difficulty processing information, solving problems, and in some instances, behavior, personality, and physical ability changes. 

Musculoskeletal disorders are more common as you get older and are accompanied by symptoms such as stiffness, pain, swelling, and limited range of motion. Arthritis is one of the most common types of musculoskeletal disorders. Other examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and degenerative disc disease. 

If the spinal cord experiences too much pressure and blood and oxygen are cut off, it can lead to loss of function and feeling. In some cases, the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are affected too. While some spinal cord injuries are temporary, others cause paraplegia and quadriplegia. Falls, motor vehicle accidents, blood clots, infections, and spinal conditions are some of the leading causes of spinal cord injuries. 

Reduced blood supply and a lack of oxygen to the brain before or during birth can cause cerebral palsy. Illnesses during pregnancy and meningitis in young children can also be a cause. Cerebral palsy results in a lack of muscle control, poor coordination, involuntary movements, and difficulty walking. 

In the case of spina bifida, the spine and spinal cord do not form completely in the womb. Some studies suggest that this might be due to a lack of folate during pregnancy, environmental factors, or even genetic conditions. Where the spinal cord and nerves are usually encased in bone and surrounded by muscle, spina bifida results in exposure of these nerves. Spina bifida causes mild to severe physical disabilities, including deformities of the spine, paralysis, and bowel and bladder incontinence.

When the tissue that protects the nerve fibers in the body becomes damaged it creates scarred patches, which results in a condition called multiple sclerosis. These scars make it difficult for the central nervous system to interact correctly with the spinal cord, brain, and optic nerves. Some of the most common symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis include loss of motor control, numbness, memory loss, and vision problems. 

This inherited genetic condition impacts the body’s reproduction, respiratory, and digestive systems. Since the condition causes thick and sticky mucus, it’s easy for the air passages to become clogged and filled with bacteria. Along with this, cystic fibrosis sufferers can also experience liver damage, infertility, fatigue, and cramps, making it more difficult to function. 

Today, more than 30 different types of muscular dystrophy have been identified, all of which lead to progressive and irreversible loss of muscle mass as well as general muscle weakness. Some of the other symptoms include heart and organ problems, difficulty walking, breathing and swallowing as well as poor joint motion. These symptoms might start gradually during someone’s younger years and become progressively worse with age. 

While epilepsy is a neurological condition, because of its impact on someone’s physical movements, it can also be deemed a physical disability. Brain injuries, stroke, and genetic conditions have all been linked to epilepsy, which can develop at different times of your life. Epilepsy also varies in terms of severity and can be controlled with medication.

Disability Benefits for People Living with Physical Disabilities

If a physical disability limits someone’s ability to work and earn an income, they may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). 

To qualify for SSDI, you need to have a disabling medical condition that prevents you from working for a year or more. You will also need to have earned enough work credits through Social Security. 

It should also be noted that there is a limit to the amount of benefits someone is able to receive. As of 2023, the average monthly SSDI benefit is around $1,358, with the maximum benefit being $3,627. 

SSDI benefits are calculated using your average indexed monthly earnings, which is based on how much you’ve earned and how much Social Security tax you’ve paid to date. 

Workers’ Compensation is another way to receive benefits for physical disabilities if you were injured at your place of work. And if a third party was negligent and caused the disability, a lawsuit can be filed with the help of a lawyer. 

Technology that Aids the Physically Disabled

For people living with physical disabilities, there is a range of technology available that can improve their quality of life, including:

Wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, scooters, and prosthetics are all examples of mobility aids. 

For people who need assistance with reading, attention, and comprehension, there are cognitive aids such as screen readers, screen enlargement apps, and text-to-speech technology. This type of software also makes it possible for people with physical disabilities to work and navigate day-to-day activities online. 

Auto page-turners, pencil grips, and book holders ensure that students and professionals have equal opportunities to learn and advance their knowledge. 

Everyone deserves to enjoy and participate in the sporting activities they love, which is why high-performance, lightweight mobility devices were created. 

To make life at home and work easier, there are also assistive aids such as adaptive utensils and switches, which assist with eating, drinking, and performing other general activities at home, work, and school. 


Physical disabilities may be frightening and overwhelming at first but an abundance of support is readily available, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to live a satisfying life doing what they love. 

From assistive technology and disability benefits to the support of the community around you, it is possible to push past the limits of a physical disability.


There are a number of conditions that are labeled as physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and epilepsy. In essence, a physical disability is any disorder that impacts how your body moves and functions physically. 


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