types of impairments and similar functional limitations may result in different patterns of disability. Several other factors contribute to shaping the dimensions and severity of disability. These include (a) the individual’s definition of the situation and reactions, which at times compound the limitations; (b) the definition of the situation by others, and their reactions and expectations—especially those who are significant in the lives of the person with the disabling condition (e.g., family members, friends and associates, employers and co-workers, and organizations and professions that provide services and benefits); and (c) characteristics of the environment and the degree to which it is free from, or encumbered with, physical and sociocultural barriers. (Nagi, 1991, p. 315)
Nagi’s definition stipulates that a disability may or may not result from the interaction of an individual’s physical or mental limitations with the social and physical factors in the individual’s environment. Consistent with Nagi’s concept of disability, an individual’s physical and mental limitations would not invariably lead to work disability. Not all physical or mental conditions would precipitate a work disability, and similar patterns of work disability may result from different types of health conditions. Furthermore, identical physical and mental limitations may result in different patterns of work disability.
Nagi’s Disablement Model has its origins in the early 1960s. As part of a study of decision making in the SSDI program, Nagi (1964) constructed a framework that differentiated disability (as defined and discussed above) from three other distinct yet interrelated concepts: active pathology, impairment, and functional limitation. This conceptual framework has come to be referred to as Nagi’s Disablement Model.
For Nagi, active pathology involves the interruption of normal cellular processes and the simultaneous homeostatic efforts of the organism to regain a normal state. He notes that active pathology can result from infection, trauma, metabolic imbalance, degenerative disease processes, or other etiology. Examples of active pathology are the cellular disturbances consistent with the onset of disease processes such as osteoarthritis, cardiomyopathy, and cerebrovascular accidents.
For Nagi, impairment refers to a loss or abnormality at the tissue, organ, and body system level. Active pathology usually results in some type of impairment, but not all impairments are associated with active pathology (e.g., congenital loss or residual impairments resulting from trauma). Impairments can occur in the primary locale of the underlying pathology (e.g., muscle weakness around an osteoarthritic knee joint), but they may also occur in secondary locales (e.g., cardiopulmonary deconditioning secondary to inactivity).
To describe the distinct consequences of pathology at the level of the