Understanding disabilities

A mental or physical disability is a condition or impairment that creates a barrier that limits someone’s ability to perform tasks as efficiently and effectively as a non-disabled person could. A disability must also be documented by a qualified practitioner.

Whether you suspect you have an undiagnosed disability or you have a student with a disability, it’s important to understand exactly what a disability is. The more we understand, the easier it is to put together a plan that helps make life and studying easier.


Visual impairment:  a condition that distorts the structure and functioning of the eye, causing impaired and limited visual use. To be diagnosed, acuity can be no more than 20/70 in the dominant eye with the best possible correction, or the person’s visual field must be so limited (20 degrees or less) that it has an effect on their abilities.

Blindness: a total loss of vision.

Hearing impairment: a distortion in the ears that causes enough hearing loss to interfere with someone’s ability to function competently and effectively. A hearing loss of 30 decibels or greater or a pure tone average of 500, 1,000 or 2,000 Hz without the use of a hearing aid in the dominant ear is needed for a person’s hearing to be categorized as an impairment.

Deafness: a complete loss of hearing.

Speech impairment: a vocal impairment related to language, articulation or fluency. This type of disability impairs one’s ability to communicate effectively and often interferes with social adjustments and academic learning.

Learning disability: One of a group of disorders that results in significant difficulties in listening, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities, or social skills. Individuals can have either single or multiple learning disabilities.

Psychological disorder: a disorder that causes someone’s mental, behavioural, or emotional state to interfere with their ability to function academically and socially.

Mobility impairment: a malfunction in body movement that makes it difficult for someone to function as a non-disabled person could. Wheelchair users, for instance, are considered to have mobility impairments.

Neurological impairment: a group of disorders in which the central nervous system does not function properly. The impairment also leads to some form of physical or mental problems. Some of these conditions include cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and brain injuries.

Chronic illness: a long-lasting or lifetime condition. Some chronic illnesses include Crohn’s disease, asthma, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and lupus.

Edwenna Campbell
Assistant, Jennifer Keeping Centre

Office: B101

Phone: 902.563.1208

Jacqueline Côté
Student Development Officer – Disability Support

Office: B104

Phone: 902.563.1121

Natalie Bianco
Program Coordinator - CBU Inclusive

Office: B-101

Phone: 902.567.3699

Cyril MacDonald
Employment Specialist for Students with Disabilities

Office: B-104

Eleanor Muggah
Assistant, Jennifer Keeping Centre

Office: B101

Phone: 902.563.1208