Although returning to work is still considered an important part of the rehabilitation process, more emphasis is now put on improving the quality of life for patients following head and/or spinal injury. In this context, the terms "impairment", "disability" and "handicap" have to be understood. The United Nations and the Americans with Disabilities Act and the World Health Organization, in its 1980 manual of classification relating to the consequences of disease, made the following distinctions:

Impairment is any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function.

Disability is any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or range considered normal for a human being. Handicap is a disadvantage for a given individual, resulting from an impairment or disability, that limits or prevents the fulfillment of a role that is normal, depending on age, sex, social and cultural factors, for that individual.

Consequently, The World Health Organization defined "rehabilitation" as a problemsolving and educational process, aimed at reducing the disability and handicap experienced by someone as a result of insult, always within the limitations imposed by available resources and by underlying insult.

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