Physical disability

This page details how ZonMw research and projects contribute to knowledge about life with a physical disability.

When a person has a physical disability, their body does not function optimally. This might be because they are missing a limb, are deaf or suffer from spasms. A physical disability can be congenital, or may develop later, and it is not always immediately apparent to others.

Physical and functional disorders

There are many conditions that fall into the category of ‘physical disability’. The most common physical disabilities can be divided into two groups:

  1. Physical impairment: This group includes conditions in which there is something wrong with the body itself, such as the lack of an arm, leg or other body part, congenital dysplasia or disability resulting from a badly healed fracture.
  2. Functional impairment: This category includes conditions where the body is intact but muscles, nerves or other organs do not function properly. This included deafness and blindness (sensory impairment), paraplegia, cerebral palsy, brain disorders (non-congenital brain injury, spasms and muscular disorders. 

The role of ZonMw: contributing to research and practical projects

ZonMw finances both research and practical projects concerned with physical disabilities. The research often focuses on improving care for people with physical disabilities. Practical projects are often about living with a disability and focus not only on care, but also on access to work, sport, education or politics.

Encouraging participation in society

We believe that everyone deserves an equal place in society. That is why ZonMw also invests in projects that ensure that people with a physical disability can participate in society without any hindrance. This is in line with the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Read more about what ZonMw does in this area on our ‘inclusive society’ page.

Studies funded by ZonMw

ZonMw funds several programmes that focus on living with physical disability. The main ones are listed below.

  • Expertise on Sensory Disabilities : In this programme, institutions in the sensory disabilities sector collaborate on research into care and support for visual, auditory and communication impairment.
  • InSight: This programme involves scientific research on care and support for people who are visually impaired.
  • Knowledge Networks for Specific Target Groups: In this programme national networks collaborate on knowledge infrastructure and research on specific physical disabilities such as Huntington’s disease, Korsakoff syndrome and non-congenital brain injury with attendant problems.
  • Onbeperkt meedoen! (Participation without Limitation): This programme is about the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Netherlands. ‘Onbeperkt meedoen!’ focuses specifically on removing both obvious and less obvious barriers so that people with an illness or disability can participate fully in society.
  • Voor Elkaar! (For Each Other) This programme funds projects by and for patients, which are intended to enable them to participate equally in society. ‘Voor Elkaar!’ focuses not only on care, but also on areas like work, education and leisure.
  • Experts at Work : A programme with projects designed to help individuals who have difficulty finding employment, such as people with a physical disability, into work. 

If you would like to know about other ZonMw projects concerning physical disability, see the list in our project database (in Dutch)

Technology as support

If you have a physical disability, technology, online care and e-health can help you to live independently and retain control of your life. ZonMw funds the development of digital tools such as apps, video calling, avatars and other IT solutions in several of its programmes. Many of the tools that have been developed for elderly people, for example, are also suitable for people with a chronic disease or disability. Read more about them on our e-health page