Background: Before 2007, the disability evaluation was based on the medical model in Taiwan. According to the People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act, from 2012 the assessment of a person's eligibility for disability benefits has to be determined based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) framework nationwide. The purposes of this study were to: 1) design the evaluation tools for disability eligibility system based on the ICF/ICF-Children and Youth; 2) compare the differences of grades of disability between the old and new evaluation systems; 3) analyse the outcome of the new disability evaluation system. Methods. To develop evaluation tools and procedure for disability determination, we formed an implementation taskforce, including 199 professional experts, and conducted a small-scale field trial to examine the feasibility of evaluation tools in Phase I. To refine the evaluation tools and process and to compare the difference of the grades of disability between new and old systems, 7,329 persons with disabilities were randomly recruited in a national population-based study in Phase II. To implement the new system smoothly and understand the impact of the new system, the collaboration mechanism was established and data of 168,052 persons who applied for the disability benefits was extracted from the information system and analysed in Phase III. Results: The measures of the 43 categories for body function/structure components, the Functioning Scale of Disability Evaluation System for activities/participation components, and the needs assessment have been developed and used in the field after several revisions. In Phase II, there was 49.7% agreement of disability grades between the old and new systems. In Phase III, 110,667 persons with a disability received their welfare services through the new system. Among them, 77% received basic social welfare support, 89% financial support, 24% allowance for assistive technology, 7% caregiver support, 8% nursing care and rehabilitation services at home, and 47% were issued parking permits for persons with disability. Conclusion: This study demonstrated that disability evaluation system based on the ICF could provide a common language between disability assessment, needs assessment and welfare services. However, the proposed assessment protocol and tools require additional testing and validation.
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