The Equality Act 2010 defines a disabled person as anyone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out day-to-day activities. These impairments include:
- loss of limbs
- multiple sclerosis
- heart disease
- Down's syndrome
- learning difficulties
- mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
Older people are more likely to develop a disability and most disabled people are adults. More than 11 million people in the UK are disabled, around 6% of whom are children.
More people are living with a disability now than in the past because we're living longer, and improved medical treatments are enabling more people to manage long-term health problems.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission says that 58% of people over 50 will have a long-term health condition by 2020.
Support for living independently
Disabilities of any kind present challenges, but this doesn't mean that life with a disability can't be fulfilling.
For most people, a fulfilling life means having control over their day-to-day activities and being able to choose how they live.
More than 1 million disabled people live alone in the UK, and many more lead independent lives with help. To learn more about independent living with a disability, read the article on Disability and independent life.
For a lot of people, independent life also means being employed. Half of the UK's disabled people are in jobs, but it should be more. Read Work and disability to learn more.
Only 17% of disabled people are born with their disability. Most disabled people have had to adjust to their disability as adults. You can learn more about this in Adjusting to disability.
Caring for carers
It's not just disabled people who are challenged by disability, but also the people who care for them. The term "carer" describes people who care for others on an unpaid basis, as opposed to people who are paid, such as care workers and home helps.
There are 6.5 million carers in the UK. If you're one of them, you may be entitled to support, such as help with caring, home adaptations and equipment, and short breaks from caring.
There's lots of practical advice as well as financial, legal and rights information for carers available from the Care and support section or by calling the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.
Article provided by NHS Choices