ArticleCity.comArticle Categories Handicapped vs Disabled: What Are the Differences?

Handicapped vs Disabled: What Are the Differences?

Photo from Unsplash

Originally Posted On:


According to the CDC, at least 26% of adults in the US qualify as having some sort of disability. Does this mean they’re all handicapped? Not technically.

People often use the terms “handicapped” and “disabled” interchangeably, but they are slightly different. The main difference is that being handicapped simply means having a physical impairment whereas disability refers to an individual’s limitations in performing life activities.

However, there’s more nuance to these terms than you might think. That’s why, in this guide, we’ll explore the definitions of these terms and discuss how they are different.

Impairment vs. Handicapped vs. Disabled: What’s the Difference?

While we briefly mentioned above that handicapped and disabled have different meanings, it’s important to talk about a third word that often gets used interchangeably with these words too. We’re talking about the word impairment.

It’s important to understand the differences between these terms because they have different implications for how people with neurological injuries and conditions are viewed by society. It’s also helpful to know so you don’t mislabel someone accidentally.


The definition of impairment is any loss or abnormality of a psychological, physiological, or anatomical structure or function. In other words, it is an injury or a condition that. That condition negatively affects the normal functioning of the body or mind.

There are many different types of impairments. They range from those that are temporary and minor to those that are permanent and major.


A handicap is the effect of a disability. When you see handicapped explained, it typically refers to a physical or mental condition that makes it difficult to do certain things or limits someone’s ability to function normally.

For example, a person who is deaf may have a handicap because they are unable to hear. A person who is blind may have a handicap because they are unable to see. This means that a person who has a disability may also have a handicap.

In other words, a handicap is something that limits a person’s ability to do what they want to do. Therefore, they’ve lost out on opportunities because of their condition or disability.


So, what is a disability?

You’ll see in any handicap guide that the term handicap is often used specifically to refer to a physical condition that affects mobility, such as paralysis or cerebral palsy. This is different from a disability, which is any limitation or impairment of physical, mental, or sensory functioning.

In other words, while all handicapped people have disabilities, not all disabled people are handicapped.

Likewise, a disability may be caused by conditions. This includes blindness, deafness, physical deformity, developmental delays, chronic disease, and terminal illness.

The Relationship Between Disability & Handicaps

It’s important to understand how the two terms relate to each other to understand how people with both disabilities and handicaps live in and navigate the world.

A disability is a physical or mental impairment that limits a person’s ability to perform certain activities. A handicap, on the other hand, is a condition that limits a person’s ability to participate fully in society.

In many cases, a disability will lead to a handicap. But, it is possible to have a disability without being handicapped.

For example, a person who is blind might be considered disabled, but if he or she learns Braille or other methods of reading and writing, they wouldn’t have a handicap.

Similarly, a person with a physical disability might use a wheelchair to get around. However, if no barriers are preventing him or her from accessing buildings and other public places, he or she would not be considered handicapped.

The relationship between disability and handicap is complex, but it is important to understand the distinction between the two concepts. They work together in the lives of most people living with disabilities so it’s helpful to understand this distinction.

Real-World Examples of Handicaps & Disabilities

Every day, we come across people with different disabilities and handicaps. Some disabilities are physical, such as blindness or deafness. Others are mental, such as autism or Down syndrome.

While these disabilities can make everyday tasks more challenging, they don’t have to prevent people from leading fulfilling lives. Here are some examples of famous people who have overcome their handicaps to achieve success.

Helen Keller was born in Alabama in 1880. When she was 19 months old, she contracted a disease that left her both blind and deaf. Despite her challenges, she learned how to communicate using sign language and Braille. She also graduated from college and became an author and activist.

Ray Charles was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. He began losing his vision when he was five years old, and by the time he was seven, he was completely blind. Despite his blindness, he taught himself how to play the piano and went on to enjoy a hugely successful career in music.

As these examples show, handicaps and disabilities don’t have to stop people from achieving their goals in life. With hard work and determination, anything is possible.

Handicapped vs. Disabled: Why It Matters for Social Security

Aside from simply understanding the complex differences between these two terms, any good disability guide or handicapped guide should discuss why it matters to understand this. Namely, for those with disabilities or handicaps, it matters in the eyes of the government.

For example, did you know that psychological exams are used to determine Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims? They’re also used to help file for and claim Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

If you think you might have a condition that meets the legal definition of handicap or disability, it’s important to get a clear understanding of what those terms mean.

Are not sure whether you meet the legal definition of handicap or disability? Your best bet is to consult with an experienced disability lawyer. When it comes time to take your psychological exam, be sure to ask your doctor or examiner how to prepare psychological exam.

There’s no need to feel anxious or stressed about the exam. However, it’s helpful to know what to expect.

Learn More About Health With Cosmo Jarvis

We hope this guide on the differences between handicapped vs. disabled has helped provide you with some understanding of the differences between the two terms.

As you learn how to use these terms correctly in everyday life, it’s worth being prepared with other health and fitness facts. From learning about physiotherapy to understanding the benefits of holistic health approaches, we cover a variety of health-related topics.

Click here to read all about health and fitness.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.