Medical Definitions of Disability (ICF)

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health is a manual produced by the World Health Organisation to standardise the definitions and measurement of ‘functionings’. The term ‘functionings’ is used to stress what can be done, rather than what can’t and is also a term used in connection with capability theories of development, equality, freedom and human rights.

“ICF is named as it is because of its stress is on health and functioning , rather than on disability” (3). What it measures is functioning and its focus is the level of health (3). Importantly, it mainstreams disability by recognising it as a universal experience: every person can experience decrements in health during their life course (3). Measuring impact, not cause, unifies and equalises health conditions (3). “By shifting the focus from cause to impact it places all health conditions on an equal footing allowing them to be compared using a common metric – the ruler of health and disability” (3).  Metrics of functioning and disability are necessary for predictions of work capability and performance and the need for disability benefits (4).



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