Disability is the lack of ability relative to a personal or group standard. It may involve a physical impairment but also could involve sensory impairment, cognitive or intellectual impairment, mental disorder or even chronic disease. A disability may be a result of something that happens during a person's lifetime or it could be present from birth.

Disability Models

Disability can be seen as having to do with individuals, and focusing on how they could function better. This view is associated with a medical model of disability. The interaction between people and their environment/society could also be emphasized. The could be on the role of society in labeling people as having a disability relative to others, causing or maintaining disability in those people through attitudes and standards of accessibility that favor those not considered disabled. This view is typically associated with the human rights or social model of disability.

International Conventions

As of December 13, 2006, the United Nations formally agreed on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to protect the rights and opportunities of the world's 650 million disabled. Countries that sign on to the convention will be required to adopt laws so that the disabled would have equal rights to education, employment, and cultural life, as well as in the right to own and inherit property and to not be discriminated against in marriage, or having children and not be unwilling subjects in medical experiments.

Employment Discrimination

The US Rehabilitation Act of 1973 stipulates that all organizations receiving government funding must provide accessibility programs and services. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, or employment.

Protection is extended to anyone with a physical or mental impediment that limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual.

Disability and African Americans

According to the 2000 Census, the African American community has the highest rate of disability at 20.8 percent, a bit higher than the overall disability rate of 19.4%. People have come to better understand and accept different types of disability but there is still a stigma attached to the disabled. African Americans with a disability are subject to not only this but also to race discrimination.

Social Administration

The US Social Security Administration defines disability in terms of inability to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA), by which it means “work paying minimum wage or better”.