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Understanding disability

The human development model
Disability Creation Process
Personal factors, organic system and aptitudes
Risk factors
Environmental factors: facilitators or obstacles
Life habits, situation of social participation and disabling situation

Key messages

The human development model

In order to understand the underlying elements of a disabling situation, Handicap International based its thinking on the “Human Development Model” developed by the International Network on the Disability Production Process (RIPPH, Réseau International sur le Processus du Production de Handicap) in 1996. This model analyses human development as an interaction between personal factors (intrinsically) and environmental factors (extrinsically) which influence the degree of social participation.


Caption: This diagram represents the development model described above.

 Disability Creation Process

The Disability Creation Process is an adaptation of the human development model in the area of disability. It uses the central notion of social participation as resulting from an interaction between personal factors and environmental factors.

Personal factors, which are internal, are the result of the combination of organic systems (for example, the muscular system) and aptitudes (for example, motor activity capabilities). Organic systems can vary in degrees, from integrity to organic impairment (or deficiency). An individual’s aptitudes can also vary from capacity to inability (or functional impairment).

Environmental factors constitute either facilitators or obstacles regarding an individual’s life habits. Environmental factors enable social participation or, on the contrary, worsen a disabling situation.

 


Caption: This graphic represents the International Network on the Disability Production Process (RIPPH) developed step-by-step below.

Personal factors, organic systems and aptitudes

A personal factor is a characteristic of the person such as age, sex, socio-cultural identity, organic systems, capabilities, etc …

An organic system is a group of bodily components all sharing a common function. An impairment refers to the degree of anatomical, histological (structural) or physiological anomaly or alteration of an organic system.

An aptitude is the extent to which a person is capable of accomplishing a physical or intellectual activity.
The notions of impairment and capabilities are measured in terms of “degrees”.


Caption: This diagram illustrates the interaction between “risk factor”, “personal factors”, “organic system” and capabilities developed previously.

Categories of organic systems:

Categories of aptitudes:

Risk factors

Risk factors can represent a cause of limitation for personal factors.

A risk factor is an element of an individual or within his/her environment that is likely to provoke a disease, trauma or any other disruption to his/her integrity or development.

A cause is a risk factor that has effectively led to a disease, trauma or any other disruption to a person’s integrity or development, for example, a car accident, or failure to treat diabetes causing diabetic foot. 

Environmental factors: facilitators or obstacles

Let’s now take a look at environmental factors.

An environmental factor is a physical or social dimension that determines a society’s organization and context.

Facilitator refers to an environmental factor that contributes to the accomplishment of life habits (when interacting with personal factors).

An obstacle is an environmental factor or situation that hinders the accomplishment of life habits (when interacting with personal factors).


Caption : This diagram illustrates environmental factor notions, facilitators, obstacles and their interaction.

Categories of environmental factors:

Examples of « facilitating environments » and « obstacle environments »


Caption: this picture shows a man in a wheelchair on the unevenly paved streets of Dakar
 © Olivier Asselin for Handicap International


Caption: this picture shows a man in a wheelchair on a ramp towards the toilets
© Handicap International


Caption: this picture shows a man in a wheelchair at the bottom of a staircase
© Olivier Asselin for Handicap International

 


Caption: this picture shows a man with a visual impairment holding a white cane, guided by a personal assistant to walk in the streets of Dakar
© Olivier Asselin for Handicap International


Caption: this picture shows a classroom in Togo, including children with and without a disability
© Olivier Asselin for Handicap International


Caption: this picture shows a girl with a disability and her mother in Tunisia
© A. Vincens de Tapol for Handicap International and GIZ


Caption: cover of the guide on the French law of 2005 for equality of rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship of people with disabilities

 

Life habits, situations of social participation and disabling situations

The interaction between personal factors—including the degree of impairment of his/her organic systems, his/her degree of inability to realize some aptitudes, but also his/her age, sex, identity and environmental factors, which can be facilitators or obstacles—either does or does not enable the full realization of a person’s life habits.

According to the DCP model, a life habit is a daily activity or a social role valued by the person or his/her socio-cultural context according to his/her characteristics (age, sex, socio-cultural identity etc), which ensures his/her survival and well-being in his/her society throughout his/her lifetime.

A situation of social participation corresponds to the full realization of life habits, for example:

A disabling situation or situation of disability corresponds to lack of, or reduced, realization of life habits. For example, where an individual:

Life habits categories, as classified by the DCP model, cover:

If a person with a hearing impairment ) is received in a structure that provides him/her with a sign language interpreter, he/she will be able to fully participate in activities. He/she is not in a situation of disability.

Illustration of the different concepts addressed in the DCP model:

Due to a road accident (cause), Maria has a vertebral column fracture (impairment). She won’t be able to walk for weeks (inability). Moreover, because she can’t get an electric wheelchair (obstacle), she won’t be able to go to work (disabling situation).

Ian is almost blind (inability). A rare disease (cause), which went unchecked for several years, has partially destroyed his eyes (impairment). He has much difficulty moving around his home every day (disabling situation), so he has made a request for financial assistance, which was refused (obstacle).

“ We’ve never seen anything like this,” said the teacher (the teacher’s attitude is an obstacle). “Did you think that because both my legs have been amputated (impairment) that I couldn’t move and swim (inability), and that I wouldn’t go for a bath in the lake!?” (disabling situation) asked Andrew. “Yes, I admit, I did think so, since your accident” (cause).