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The Disability Portal

symbols for someone sitting in a wheelchair, a brain, sign language and someone walking with a (possibly white) stick

Disability, according to the World Health Organization, is defined as "...an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives."

Selected article

Photo of a boy with Down syndrome using an electric drill to assemble a bookcase
Boy with Down syndrome assembling a bookcase

Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome. It is named after John Langdon Down, the British physician who described the syndrome in 1866. The disorder was identified as a chromosome 21 trisomy by Jérôme Lejeune in 1959. The condition is characterized by a combination of major and minor differences in structure. Often Down syndrome is associated with some impairment of cognitive ability and physical growth, and a particular set of facial characteristics. Down syndrome in a fetus can be identified with amniocentesis during pregnancy, or in a baby at birth.

Individuals with Down syndrome tend to have a lower-than-average cognitive ability, often ranging from mild to moderate disabilities. A small number have severe to profound mental disability. The average IQ of children with Down syndrome is around 50, compared to normal children with an IQ of 100. The incidence of Down syndrome is estimated at 1 per 800 to 1,000 births, although it is statistically much more common with older mothers. Other factors may also play a role. Many of the common physical features of Down syndrome may also appear in people with a standard set of chromosomes. Health concerns for individuals with Down syndrome include a higher risk for congenital heart defects, gastroesophageal reflux disease, recurrent ear infections, obstructive sleep apnea, and thyroid dysfunctions.

Early childhood intervention, screening for common problems, medical treatment where indicated, a conducive family environment, and vocational training can improve the overall development of children with Down syndrome. Although some of the physical genetic limitations cannot be overcome, education and proper care will improve quality of life.

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Circle of friends: seen from above, participants lie in a circle on the grass at the foot of a cliff, with their hands stretched out to meet in the middle
Participants in an Outward Bound group, with a variety of physical disabilities, have just tackled a ropes challenge course. Photo credit: Louise Dawson

Selected biography

Jagadguru Rambhadracharya delivering a sermon on October 25, 2009
Jagadguru Rambhadracharya

Jagadguru Rambhadracharya (January 14, 1950 –), born Giridhar Mishra, is an acclaimed scholar, educationist, polyglot, composer, orator, philosopher and Hindu religious leader based in Chitrakuta, Uttar Pradesh, India. Blind himself, he is the founder and lifelong chancellor of the Jagadguru Rambhadacharya Handicapped University in Chitrakuta, which is the first university in the world to offer graduate and postgraduate courses exclusively to the four types of disabled students – visually impaired, hearing impaired, mobility impaired and mentally impaired. He can speak 22 languages, and is a spontaneous poet (Āśukavi) and composer in Sanskrit, Hindi, Awadhi, Maithili and several other languages. He cannot read or write, as he does not use the Braille system, but learns by listening and composes by dictating to scribes.

Giridhara lost his eyesight at the age of two months, after his eyes were infected by Trachoma. There were no advanced facilities for treatment in his village. He was taken to a local quack, an elderly woman who was known to cure Trachoma. She poured a hot concoction in the baby's eyes to burst the Trachoma lumps, but the eyes started bleeding and the baby lost its eyesight. To restore his eyesight, he was taken by his family to various Ayurvedic, Homeopathic, Allopathic and alternate medicine physicians in other cities, but to no avail. Giridhara Mishra has been blind ever since.


Related portals


  • Commons:Disabled people
  • Wikiquote:Disability


The Disability WikiProject is a project that helps to assemble writers and editors interested in Disability related articles. The aim of this project is to co-ordinate the improvement and creation of articles.

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