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Defining Disability

What is Disability:

Visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission website to view the definition in the Human Rights Code

The definition of “disability” in the Code is broad.  It includes past, present and perceived conditions.  When considering whether a student has been discriminated against because of disability, the focus may be on how the student was treated rather than on proving that he or she has physical limitations or an ailment.

Protection for persons with disabilities under the Code explicitly includes physical disability, developmental disabilities and learning disabilities.  Discrimination may be based as much on perceptions, myths and stereotypes, as on the existence of actual functional limitations.

See the Ontario Human Rights Commission website for more information about the public service.

A disability may be one of the following, but is not limited to the following:

  • Mental health disability (schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety and panic disorder)
  • Learning Disability
  • Acquired Brain Injury
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Deaf, deafened, hard-of-hearing
  • Low vision or blind
  • Chronic Health condition (cancer, epilepsy, heart disease, etc.)
  • Physical (paralysis, amputation, etc.)

"The nature or degree of certain disabilities might render them non-evident to others. Chronic fatigue syndrome and back pain, for example, are not apparent conditions. Other disabilities might remain hidden because they are episodic. Epilepsy is one example. Similarly, environmental sensitivities can flare up from one day to the next, resulting in significant impairment to a person's health and capacity to function, while at other times, this disability may be entirely non-evident. Other examples might include:

  • persons whose disabilities do not actually result in any functional limitations but who experience discrimination because others believe their disability makes them less able;
  • persons who have recovered from conditions but are treated unfairly because of their past condition, and
  • persons whose disabilities are episodic or temporary in nature.

Other disabilities may become apparent based on the nature of the interaction, such as when there is a need for oral communication with an individual who is deaf, or there is a need for written communication with an individual who has a learning disability. A disability might become apparent over time through extended interaction. It might only become known when a disability accommodation is requested or, simply, the disability might remain non-evident because the individual chooses not to divulge it for personal reasons."

Ontario Human Rights Commission, Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, revised November 23, 2000. [Online] Available at the OHRC website: http://www.ohrc.on.ca, 10.


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