What is disability?

According to the Social Benefits for Disabled Persons Act, disability is the loss of or an abnormality in an anatomical, physiological or mental structure or function of a person which in conjunction with different relational and environmental restrictions prevents participation in social life on equal bases with the others.
The state provides a number of benefits and discounts to support the ability of disabled persons to cope independently, social integration and equal opportunities and to promote studies and work. Benefits and services are provided by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and local governments.
Many service providers offer discounts to disabled persons (e.g. public transport, cultural events). In order to provide the necessary services, benefits and discounts to disabled persons, it is necessary to apply for the determination of the disability and its degree of severity. The disability is determined by the Estonian National Social Insurance Board.

It is important to understand that:

  • Health damage alone is not a disability, thus the need for treatment is not a basis for determining a disability. Disability is a long-term established condition that is often irreversible.
  • Disability can change over time because the person’s condition, coping ability and environment may change – for better or for worse (e.g. progression of the condition or partial recovery as a result of surgery or new technical aids, etc.).
  • That is why the degree of severity of disability is reassessed after a certain period of time (up to 5 years). They do not assess “whether the leg has grown back”, but whether the coping of the person has changed or whether their need for personal assistance has increased or decreased.
  • A person of working age may apply for the assessment of work ability together with the determination of the degree of severity of disability by filling out a joint application. The work ability is assessed by and the related services are provided by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, work ability assessment provides the possibility to receive the employment services and benefits offered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Depending on age, a distinction is made between two groups of people when determining a disability:

  • A disabled person of working age.
  • Disabled children and disabled persons of retirement age.

According to the definition of a disabled person of working age, a person whose daily activities and participation in social life are difficult, limited or restricted has a disability. Daily activities and participation are considered to be, for example, the ability to communicate, mobility, as well as the ability to take care of oneself, do household activities, work, study, etc. A person of working age is a person aged 16 to 64.

When it comes to persons of working age, there are three degrees of severity of disability:

  • Moderate disability – a person who has difficulties in his or her daily activity or participation in social life has a moderate disability.
  • Severe disability – a person whose daily activity or participation in social life is restricted has a severe disability.
  • Profound disability – a person whose daily activity or participation in social life is wholly restricted has a profound disability.

According to the definition of a disabled child or a disabled person of retirement age, a person who needs more personal assistance, guidance and supervision than their peers has a disability.

Personal assistance or guidance means the provision of assistance to persons who do not cope independently with eating, hygiene, clothing themselves, moving about or communicating. Supervision means the ensurance of safety regarding persons who, by act or omission, may constitute danger to the life, health or property of themselves or other persons.

When it comes to children or persons of retirement age, there are three degrees of severity of disability:

  • Moderate disability – a person who needs regular personal assistance or guidance outside his or her residence at least once a week has a moderate disability.
  • Severe disability – a person who needs personal assistance, guidance or supervision in every twenty-four hour period has a severe disability.
  • Profound disability – a person who needs constant personal assistance, guidance or supervision twenty-four hours a day has a profound disability.

Read more on the website of the Estonian National Social Insurance Board:

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