Wheelchair and bicycler on path

Disability Tip Sheets

Acquired Brain Injury

An acquired brain injury is caused by trauma or a blow to the head. It occurs most commonly as a result of motor vehicle accidents, a fall, consequence of an assault/violence, or through a sport injury. An ABI usually causes permanent damage to the brain and results in impaired functioning.


Aging is a term which describes the process that encompasses a decline in productivity, performance and health over time. As we age, we inevitably become frailer, susceptible to age-related degenerative disease, and more vulnerable to acquiring a disability.


Amputations can occur through a congenital condition, or they may take place through a traumatic injury to an individual’s limbs (hand(s), arm(s), foot/feet or leg(s)). An amputation may be minor, involving fingers or toes or a small part of a hand or foot. A major amputation can involve the removal of all or part of the hand or foot, a leg, or an arm.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders often appear first during one’s teenage years but may also be related to having experienced psychological trauma or abuse. Some people respond well to the treatments and medications available and may appear to be functioning quite normally on many days but may show signs and symptoms on other days. In some cases, the side-effects of the medications used to manage symptoms can cause unique problems.


Asthma is a chronic lung condition which is characterized by restricted airways, causing difficulty with breathing. The airways are affected by both tightening and inflammation of the muscles. This is often triggered by allergens (pollens, pet dander, moulds, etc.) as well as irritants (smoke, strong smells, cold air, etc.). Symptoms can include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and feelings of tightness in the chest.

Blindness / Visual Impairment

Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception. There are varying degrees of blindness, from having zero % of visual perception, to having a slightly higher percentage. An individual with zero % light perception is considered blind. However, an individual with a small percentage of vision may still lack vision and this cannot be significantly improved using standard visual aids. Individuals can either be born with a visual disability (congenital) or can acquire one later in life (acquired).

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a term used to explain a neurological condition which impacts muscle coordination and body movement. CP is regarded as a non progressive condition brought about by an injury to the developing brain. That said, the effects of CP can change with time. It may be possible for children who have CP to gain sufficient hand control to ride a bike.


A person who is deafblind has a substantial degree of loss in sight and hearing, the combination of which results in significant difficulties in accessing information. Deafblindness is a complex disability that combines varying degrees of both hearing and visual impairment, making it unique to each individual.

Developmental Disabilities

Developmental disabilities are most often congenital and can have a broad range of effects on the individual. Some have exaggerated emotions and can be boisterous and happy most of the time. They can also have emotions that are easily triggered and they may be easily upset. Each individual is unique.


Epilepsy is a chronic brain condition that causes repetitive seizures. It can affect people of all ages. The cause is not well understood. Some people may acquire epilepsy as a result of stroke, brain injury, viral infections of the brain (i.e. meningitis, viral encephalitis), or alcohol poisoning from substance abuse.

Hearing Impairments

Deafness is defined as the absence of functional hearing, where an individual is reliant on visual means of communication such as sign language, lip-reading, reading and writing. An individual who is hard of hearing can understand some speech through their ears.

Mobility Impairments

It is estimated that over 18 million people in Canada and the USA have a mobility impairment, according to the National Mobility Equipment Dealer's Association. A mobility impairment can be defined as a disabling condition which requires an adaptation. A person who has a mobility impairment may use adaptive devices, or mobility aids such as canes, crutches, wheelchairs or artificial limbs.

Mood Disorders: Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression

Mood disorders may affect individuals of all ages. Depression is much more complex than simply calling it severe sadness. It can be very overwhelming and unlike normal sadness. It can be sadness for no apparent reason. An individual may clearly understand that their sadness is unrealistic but is powerless against it.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory condition in which nerve cell covers become damaged. This damage inhibits the communication of information throughout the nervous system, which in turn can predispose an individual to a range of physical, mental and psychiatric problems. Symptoms which an individual may experience can include tremors/shaking in the limbs (arms or legs), fatigue and associated pain.

Psychosis and Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders may affect individuals of all ages. Some appear after puberty but may occur earlier. Some disorders may be the result of traumatic abuse or brain injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries

A spinal cord injury is trauma or damage to the spinal cord which results in a loss or impairment of function, leading to a reduction in mobility or feeling. Traumatic SCI can occur through car accidents, falls, gun shots or sport injuries among other causes. SCI can also occur through diseases such as Transverse Myelitis, Spina Bifida, or Polio.


A stroke is a condition wherein brain cells die due to a lack of oxygen, caused either by an obstruction to the blood flow or the rupture of an artery which feeds the brain. For a stroke victim, this may lead to an inability to speak, memory problems or partial paralysis.