The Meaning of Disability

Project Summary

Els Nieuwenhuijsen, Ph.D., MPH, OTR, a retired research investigator at the University of Michigan’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, along with assistance from Mary Reilly, Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), and Emily Ginier, Taubman Health Sciences Library, also at U-M, have produced a video about the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).

The ICF is a uniform framework intended to educate individuals about health, functioning and disability at the individual and population levels. It presents the intersection of environmental factors and persons with a disability.

“The Meaning of Disability” features interviews with community members who have disability, including Carolyn Grawi, Lloyd Shelton and Madeline Bacolor. The overall goal of this video is to raise public awareness about the ICF, and to promote uniform terminology to help researchers, health care providers, policy makers and many other professionals collect and compare standard data and outcomes. The video is available for viewing at the top of this page, as well as on YouTube.

For more resources on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) please visit our ICF Resources page.

Dr. Els Nieuwenhuijsen's Biography

Dr. Nieuwenhuijsen retired as adjunct research investigator from the University of Michigan's Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Department (PM&R) in 2016. She has also worked in the Netherlands, France and the United States in clinical practice, research and administration. She has co-published approximately 10 peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Nieuwenhuijsen received her Bachelor's equivalent degree in Occupational Therapy from the Dutch School  of Occupational Therapy in Amsterdam in 1968; a Master's of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in 1985; and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Community Health from Walden University in 2003. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation (NIDRR) within the Department of PM&R at U-M from 2003-2005.

Her volunteer work includes co-founding the American Public Health Association (APHA) Disability Section in 1998; field testing ICIDH-2 Beta (now the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) in 1998; and working as pilot test coordinator of the Accessibility and Inclusion Ministry at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor from 2013-2016.