AUTHORS: Silvia Yee, LL.B., M.A., Mary Lou Breslin, M.A., Tawara D. Goode, M.A., Susan M. Havercamp, Ph.D., FAAIDD, Willi Horner-Johnson, Ph.D., Lisa I. Iezzoni, M.D., M.Sc., and Gloria Krahn, Ph.D., M.P.H. Paper presented at the Roundtable workshop on The Intersections Among Health Disparities, Health Equity, and Health Literacy, Washington, D.C. (June 14, 2016)
INTRODUCTION: Anyone can become disabled in a flash. Furthermore, across the life span, almost all persons live with disability at some time, especially in their later years. Thus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), disability is “a continuum, relevant to the lives of all people to different degrees and at different times in their lives,” virtually a “universal phenomenon” and a “natural feature of the human condition.” As the Institute of Medicine stated: If one considers people who now have disabilities…, people who are likely to develop disabilities in the future, and people who are or will be affected by the disabilities of family members or others close to them, then disability affects today or will affect tomorrow the lives of most Americans. Clearly, disability is not a minority issue. Disabilities are diverse although they share one common feature: persons with disability perform basic human functions—such as hearing, seeing, speaking, moving, thinking, and emoting— differently than do other persons. Since early times, human societies have struggled with defining disability and determining whether individuals are disabled. Wherever people gathered to share resources, some individuals could not fully perform their expected social roles or equally contribute to communal wealth because of sensory, physical, cognitive, or mental health impairments.