Difference between Disability and Disorder

Key difference: Disability is an injury that restricts the functions or movements of a person. Disorder is an illness that causes disruption to the functions of a person.

Disability is the consequence of an impairment caused to a person. It is essentially a medical condition, which doesn't allow a person to function in a normal manner. Disability can be present in a person since birth, or can come about during his/her lifetime.Disabilities can be characterized into various forms such as phsical disability, mental disability, sensory disabily, olfactory disability, etc. It is noteworthy that words such as disorder, impairment, handicap, etc. are used interchangeably with disability. However, these terms also have their own associations, such as  the term 'disorder' is often used for mental disabilities and 'impairment' is used for sensory disabilities such as vision impairment, speech impairment, etc.

It is observed that people suffering from disability cannot go back to being as they were before, which is why disabled persons in various countries are eligible to receive special grants and privileges. They’re entitled to receive a waiver in treatments, automatic reservation at a public service venue, dedicated compartments/seats in public transport vehicles, special grants concerning education and employment, etc. A disabled person might not be as competent as an able person, but, he/she is the epitome of a warrior’s spirit. Their stories are truly inspirational and we all must take a lot of heart from them.

Disorder can be defined as a blip in the usual functioning of a person. Essentially, disorder is any ailment that disturbs the health of a person. Disorders hinder a person’s performance and diminish his/her efficiency. Disorders appear trivial at the onset, but they often grow insidiously in a person. Many times a disorder can’t be detected in time, as a result of which, a simple disorder metamorphoses into a disability. When it comes to disorders, the most popular and commonly associated term is brain disorder. This is because brain disorders are very complex in nature, and quite intriguing to the faculty of psychological studies, because they often demand a remedy that is a departure from normal ways or techniques. 

Apart from mental disorders, there are also other kinds such as an eating disorder, substance abuse, addiction disorder, attention disorder, etc. Disorders of the human brain have their sub-types too, such as a neurological disorder, hyper activity disorder, psychological disorder, etc.

Comparison between Disability and Disorder:





Disability is a disadvantage that restricts the functions or movements of a person.

Disorder is the disruption caused to the normal functions of a person.

Parts affected

Disability is often associated with body parts.

Disorder is often associated with mental competency.


Partial disability, complete disability, etc.

Anxiety disorder, psychological disorder etc.

Image Courtesy: members.optusnet.com.au, weareprimary.org

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Very informative article, but there are terms such as ''disabled person'' which is not an appropriate term to used because it is not what we call FIRST PEOPLE LANGUAGE.

I am very clear now about disability and disorder. I'm still not clear on when the disorder ( illness ), becomes debilitating disability.

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