About ICF

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) (hereinafter – the ICF)


The ICF is one of the three classifications related to health and well-being and covers all aspects of human health and health-related components of well-being.

It dates back to the 1970s, when the importance of eliciting the effects disease has on human life was recognized rather than simply diagnosing the disease, which is reflected in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). It took more than 20 years for the World Health Assembly to finally adopt an updated version of the document in 2001, when the ICF moved away from the classification of the “consequences of the disease” towards the classification of the “components of health.” “Components of health” refer to elements that constitute health, whereas “consequences” focus on the effects produced by diseases or other health conditions.

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health aims to establish a unified and standardized language and patterns for describing health and health-related conditions. It provides definitions of health components and some health-related components of well-being (such as education and employment).

The ICF can be used for various purposes, including:

• as a statistical tool – in data collection and registration (e.g., in population studies and testing or in management information systems);

• as a research tool – to assess the results of interventions, quality of life, or environmental factors;

• as a clinical tool – to assess needs, compare treatment options, assess occupational aptitude, rehabilitation, and evaluate the effects of interventions;

• as a social policy tool – when planning social protection measures, compensation systems, their policies, and implementation;

• as a learning tool – for curriculum development, advocacy, and public events.

As the ICF is essentially a classification of health and health-related indicators, it is also used in areas such as insurance, social protection, labor, education, economy, social policy, general legislation development, and environmental change.

It is a system used in all developed countries by doctors, educators, rehabilitation professionals and psychologists to develop a comprehensive understanding of the person’s condition and come up with better treatment and rehabilitation plans as well as services for people with chronic diseases, special needs or disabilities.


Why the ICF is a convenient tool

for creating an inclusive educational environment

Based on the biopsychosocial model

This approach provides a unified view of different interpretations of disability from biological, to individual and to social, and makes it possible to do without any medical diagnosis.

Makes it possible to document objective observations

By observing the child’s activities and participation in the educational environment, each teacher can document difficulties, if any, at the same time avoiding subjective judgments and assumptions, as well as making note of the child’s strengths that they can build on.

Designed to account for the impact of environmental factors on the child

Admittedly, it is only in interactions with various barriers that a child’s disability can hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal footing with others. Therefore, it is of extreme importance to remove such barriers and find facilitating environmental factors.

Common language

Organization of an inclusive educational environment often requires contributions of an interdisciplinary team, consisting of not only educators but also social and health workers. The ICF provides a universal common language between professionals in all these fields.

Useful ICF-related resources:

Ukrainian translation of the ICF on the website of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.

CMU Order No. 1008-p “On Approval of the Action Plan for the Introduction in Ukraine of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health and the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Children & Youth Version” of December 27, 2017.

ICF-based documentation tool www.icf-core-sets.org.

ICF training module and tests icf.ideaday.de.

Organizational-Methodological Grounds of Inclusive Resource Centers’ Activities. Study Guide.