The prevalence of disability
The prevalence of disability in any society depends on the way it has been defined and measured. Some definitions have emerged from discussions which are primarily conceptual and theoretical (World Health Organisation, 1980; Agerholm, 1975a, 1975b). Others have been devised with a practical purpose in mind such as surveys to count and classify people (Harris 1971; Martin et al., 1988) or for allocating benefits and services (outset, 1986a, 1986b). Some writers have tried to develop both types of definition (Townsend, 1979). Attempts to measure and classify individual impairments and disabilities have been made for purposes of providing material relief since the days of the Poor Law and workmen’s compensation since the nineteenth century (Brown, 1982, 1984). In recent years these attempts have become more sophisticated, incorporating not only a medical or physiological view of disability but also a social and political view of the phenomenon of disability which emphasises the interaction between environmental and social processes and health states (see Duckworth, 1983, p. 16, for a review of these developments).
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