Skip main navigation

Counting disability: Educator feedback

In this video, Louisa Smith and Leanne Dowse give feedback on the activity in the previous step, which involved exploring how disability is counted.

When we start to look at how international organisations attempt to categorise and count impairment and disabled people we can immediately see a range of challenges in doing this.

Some of the things that impact on whether a person will be “counted” are things like the resources countries and governments have to do the counting — this is especially important when we see from the websites we have just looked at that disability is very closely associated with poverty. As well there are cultural issues around what is recognised as disability. In other words, cultural understandings of what disability is and how people are identified are very variable.

Disability too is a very “Western” concept which we have seen defined by organisations and people based in the Global North, like the World Bank, the UN and others. We can also see from some of the information included in the statistics that there are very real differences between different genders and across the life course, which you will explore further in Weeks 4 and 5.

The other problem, of course, is the question of what we are counting — whether it’s a “medical” diagnosis or impairment, or whether it is disability or how people experience their impairment as disabling.

We can see in the websites in the previous step that only certain things get measured. For instance some of the information included here is about “prevalence” (how many people in the population experience disability), but there are other things that also get measured like employment, education, violence and mortality. All these things together make for a really complicated picture of what is important to count. Knowing this, how we can be sure that we can collect reliable information that gives us a comprehensive picture when the world is such a variable place?

You may want to explore what data is available locally to you. We look at this next, and have asked Mel, our learner guide, to do the same activity.

This article is from the free online

Disability and a Good Life: Thinking through Disability

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now