What is PwD?

The acronym PwD stands for disabled person . Identifies people who have some kind of disability, which can be born or acquired during life.

The acronym began to be used in 2006, when the United Nations (UN) published the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities .

Before that, the expression “disabled person” was used, which is not considered adequate, as it highlighted disability more than the human condition.

What is a disability?

Disability is a physical, intellectual, visual or hearing limitation that makes it difficult to carry out activities compared to people without disabilities.

It can be birth (when the person is born with the disability) or acquired (when an event causes the disability, such as a disease or accident).

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), almost 24% of the Brazilian population is PwD.

Worldwide, this index is around 10%, according to UN data:

  • physical disability: 2%;
  • visual impairment: 0.7%;
  • hearing impairment: 1.3%;
  • intellectual disability: 5%;
  • multiple disability (more than one disability): 1%.

What defines a person with a disability (PwD)?

It is a PwD who has one of these limitations (physical, intellectual, visual or auditory). If a person has more than one type of disability, we call it a multiple disability .

Brazilian law defines disability as:

“a long-term impediment of a physical, mental, intellectual or sensory nature, which, in interaction with one or more barriers, can obstruct your full and effective participation in society on equal terms with other people” (Law no. 13146/2015 – Statute of the Person with Disabilities).

What are the types of disabilities?

1. Physical disability

Physical disability is a characteristic (natural or acquired) that hinders a person’s mobility . It can be of many types, with varied origins and change the functioning of a part of the body.

Signs identifying the person with physical disability.

Each type of physical disability will present different difficulties for PwD, the main ones being the ability to walk.

Some types of physical disabilities are:

  • amputation: loss or lack of a limb (leg or arm);
  • congenital malformation: deficiency in the formation of an organ;
  • stunting: growth deficiency, the average height of adults is 1.20 m,
  • paraplegia: paralysis of the lower body, mainly the movement of the legs and feet;
  • cerebral palsybrain injury or malformation;
  • quadriplegia: paralysis and loss of movement of the upper and lower limbs (arms and legs).

2. Intellectual disability

In intellectual (mental) disability, the person has some degree of impairment or loss of intellectual capacity , which is below what is considered normal for his age and expected development.

Signs identifying the person with intellectual disability.

Depending on the type of disability, some skills may be impaired, such as: ability to communicate, adapt, control emotions, social interaction, learning or work ability.

There are many types of mental disabilities that can present in different degrees (mild, moderate, severe or profound), varying from person to person. Some types are:

  • Syndrome Angelman;
  • Asperger‘s syndrome;
  • Downsyndrome ;
  • Syndrome Prader-Willi;
  • Tourette‘s syndrome ;
  • Williamssyndrome ;
  • Fragile X syndrome;
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder (autism).

The diagnosis made in childhood and adequate care for the disabled (medical and educational) can guarantee that the child develops some skills and improves his / her abilities.

Learn more about intellectual disability and autism .

3. Visual impairment

It is the loss of vision , and it can be complete or partial.

Signs identifying the visually impaired person.

Total or almost total loss of vision is also called blindness. Low vision occurs when the eye still retains some of its visual capacity.

The most common types of visual impairment are:

  • blindness: total or partial loss of vision that compromises the ability to read and write;
  • low vision: when there is a loss of at least 30% of the vision in the less compromised eye, but some visual capacity is still preserved (it can present itself in very variable levels);
  • monocular vision: occurs when blindness reaches one eye.

Read more about visual impairment .

4. Hearing impairment

Hearing impairment is the total or partial loss of hearing ability . It can be of two types:

  • unilateral: affects only one ear;
  • bilateral: hearing loss occurs in both ears.

Signs identifying the person with hearing loss.

A person is considered to be hearing impaired when the hearing loss is at least 41 decibels. The analysis of the amount of the loss must be done by a doctor.

Is there a difference between the acronyms PcD and PNE?

PwD means person with disabilities and PNE means person with special needs . Expressions are not synonymous because they identify different types of people.

A person with a disability (PwD) has one (or more than one) of the known disabilities: physical, intellectual, visual or hearing.

PNE have a specific (special) need and may even have a disability, but this is not a rule.

An elderly person, for example, is a person with special needs due to their condition (age). Because of this, he can enjoy some rights, such as priority service and reserved seats on public transport.

The concept of people with special needs also includes temporary situations, such as a pregnant woman. While in this situation, she will also have the right to take advantage of service priorities.


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