A physical disability is a condition that affects a person's physical functioning. This can include impairments in mobility, dexterity, strength, and coordination.

The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. The Act defines ‘substantial’ as being more than minor or trivial – for example, if it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed. ‘Long-term’ is defined as lasting for a period of 12 months or more – for example, a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection.

In 2021, there were 10.4 million disabled people across both England and Wales (or 17.8% of the population).

The important thing to note here is that Individuals with physical disabilities can lead fulfilling, meaningful and independent lives, but they may require some additional support and care to do so.


Causes of Physical Disabilities

Physical disabilities can be caused by a range of factors, including:

  • Congenital Causes: Some disabilities can be present at birth, occur during the prenatal period. This can include genetic conditions as well (e.g. Down syndrome)
  • Acquired Causes: These are disabilities that occur later in life, due to factors such as illness or injury or long term chronic diseases. This can include conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury, and cancer.
  • Traumatic Causes: Disabilities can also occur due to accidents or injuries. This can include conditions such as traumatic brain injury, amputation, and paralysis.

Common Challenges Faced by People with Physical Disabilities

While each individual's experience is unique, living with disability can be very challenging.

Physical Barriers

Physical barriers are one of the most common. People with disabilities may find it difficult to move both indoors and outdoors, use public spaces, and public transport. These can make the moving. Inaccessible buildings, lack of wheelchair ramps or elevators, narrow doorways, and other environmental barriers that can make it difficult or impossible for people with physical disabilities to navigate their surroundings.

Interacting with others and the rest of the world, be it physical or online can become difficult for people with disabilities affecting their senses for instance.

For example, individuals who use wheelchairs may not be able to access public transportation, public restrooms, or buildings that have stairs but no ramps or elevators. This can limit their ability to participate fully in society, leading to feelings of frustration, isolation, and dependence on others.

Mental Health Issues

Living with a physical disability can also take a toll on an individual's mental health. Coping with the physical limitations and disability can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Moreover, physical disabilities can impact an individual's sense of identity and self-worth, leading to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. 

Hence it is crucial that individuals with physical disabilities should have access to mental health resources and support systems to help them manage these challenges.

Social Isolation

Social isolation is another common challenge faced by individuals with physical disabilities, especially for older adults. Physical disabilities can limit an individual's ability to participate in social activities, making it difficult to go out and make friends and maintain social connections.

Moreover, societal attitudes towards individuals with disabilities can often lead to social exclusion and marginalisation, which can further exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Stigma and Discrimination

Physical disabilities often come with stigma and  people with disabilities face discrimination in society. They may be seen as "less than" or "different," which can lead to negative attitudes, and behaviours towards them. Difficulty in finding paid work is one the most harsh manifestations of this discrimination.

It is important to recognize and address these issues, and work towards creating a more inclusive and accepting environment for individuals with physical disabilities.

Dealing with Physical Disability Care

Dealing with Physical Disability Care

Dealing with physical disability care requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account the unique needs of the individual. Here are some of the most important ways and useful tips for dealing with physical disability:

  • Mobility Aids: Using mobility aids are essential to maintaining independence and ensuring safety. These include walking aids such as canes and walkers, as well as wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
  • Adapting your surroundings as per needs: These can include specially designed kitchen utensils, bathroom aids, tools for dressing and grooming, voice-activated controls, and remote controls for devices such as lights and appliances.
  • Communication Aids: Communication can be challenging for people with disabilities that affect speech, hearing, or vision. Communication aids such as sign language, speech recognition software, and hearing aids can help facilitate communication.
  • Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation: can help people with physical disabilities improve their strength, mobility, and overall quality of life. This can include exercises, stretches, and other techniques designed to improve muscle function and range of motion.
  • Pain Management: Pain is a common issue for people with physical disabilities. Effective pain management can help improve quality of life and reduce the impact of pain on daily activities. This can include medication, physical therapy, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and massage.
  • Nutrition and healthy eating: People with physical disabilities may have unique nutritional needs based on their disability and overall health. Consulting with a nutritionist or dietitian can help ensure that they are getting the right nutrients and vitamins to support their overall health and wellbeing. Additionally, ensuring that they have access to healthy foods and meal preparation assistance can help ensure they are eating a well-balanced diet. Read more on Nutrition and Healthy Eating for Older Adults to get started.

Disability Care Services and Support in the UK

There are various services and support options available in the UK to help individuals with physical disabilities live fulfilling lives.

Government-funded programs

The UK government offers several disability care programs that provide financial assistance and support to individuals with disabilities. These programs include Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The overall aim is to help individuals with daily living, mobility and other assistive technology  costs, help get access to other financial support and work opportunities.

Community-Based Services

There are many community-based services available to individuals with physical disabilities, such as disability support groups, community centers, and rehabilitation centers. These services provide a range of support, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, counselling services and recreational activities.

Support Groups

Support groups are a valuable resource for individuals with physical disabilities. These groups bring together individuals who share similar experiences and provide emotional support and practical advice. Support groups can be found in person, online, or through social media platforms.

The Role of Caregivers

Family, friends and other caregivers play a crucial role in helping individuals with disabilities achieve the highest possible level of independence and quality of life.

  • Understanding the Needs of the Person with a Disability
  • Creating a Safe and Accessible Living Environment
  • Assisting with Daily Living Activities
  • Providing Emotional Support


Individuals with physical disabilities require special attention and support to help them live their lives to the fullest. Proper disability care can be life changing and can make a huge difference to them. It is important to understand how physical disabilities can affect people, recognize the challenges and provide appropriate support and resources to address them.

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