If we were to write down all those things that we ordinarily categorise as disabilities, the resulting list might appear to be extremely heterogeneous. What do disabilities have in common? In this paper I defend the view that disabilities should be understood as particular kinds of inability. I show how we should formulate this view, and in the process defend the view from various objections. For example, I show how the view can allow that common kinds of inability are not disabilities, can allow that minor kinds of inability are rightly not described as disabilities, and can allow that socially imposed inabilities need not be disabilities. In the second half of the paper, I show that this theory is superior to rival theories. I criticize the wellbeing theory of disability (Kahane and Savulescu 2009, Savulescu and Kahane 2011, Harris 2001) and conventionalist theories of disability (e.g. Barnes 2016). Finally, I show how the inability theory is consistent with the best versions of the social model of disability.
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