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What is Handicap?

What is Handicap?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a handicapped person to have a loss or limited opportunities in being involved in activities as compared to the majority of the population. A handicap is the effect of a disability. It focuses on an obstacle experienced by a person due to a restriction in the environment.


Origin of the Term Handicap


For many, handicap may seem as an odd word. In fact, it was only linked to the essence of physical disability in 1915 even if the word was already used centuries back. The following accounts are related to the origin of the term:

  • The word “handicap” is said to have originated in 1504 when King Henry VII proclaimed that disabled veterans can legally beg. With their “cap in hand”, people with disabilities went to the streets; hence, “hand-in-cap”. However, several authors claim that this is a false origin of the term.
  • Most sources claim that the origin is a lottery game called “hand-in-cap” which was played in the 1600s. Basically, the barter game involved putting forfeit money into a cap and the owner of the less valuable item has to pay up. The term then evolved to “hand i’cap” which became “handicap”.
  • Overtime, “handicap” was linked to equity as it was commonly used in sports to make a certain competition fairer. For instance, faster horses were made to carry weights so they could be more on par with the slower ones.
  • The term became widely understood as a way or condition to limit or impede.
  • In 1915, “handicap” was first employed in connection with disability when it pertained to children with mobility impairments.
  • In the 1950s, “handicap” was also applied to adults as well as those with intellectual disabilities.
  • In the 1970’s, “handicapped” had been the legal term concerning social services.



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