chapter  5
16 Pages

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health and its relationship to disability studies

ByJerome E. Bickenbach

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) (WHO 2001) occupies an intriguing place in disability studies. Although the ICF is now well entrenched as a standard epidemiological tool in many domains of health practice and research – from medicine and the rehabilitation therapies to public health, health systems and health policy – it is either ignored or heavily criticized by disability studies scholars who dismissively associate it with themedical model of disability. There are certainly many reasons to be sceptical about the ICF and its applications, but ignoring it and its increasing influence – foremost in the health sector, but increasingly in the labour and education sectors as well – is not, I want to argue, a sensible strategy. Once misunderstandings are removed and the flaws are honestly and plainly identified, the ICF should be acknowledged as an intellectual achievement and a scientifically valid and scholarly tool, but most importantly as an instrument of empowerment, especially in light of its potential role in national monitoring mechanisms mandated by the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD 2006).