The development of outcome measures of disability is an important focus in physical therapy research. This paper reviews the content of functional status/disability measures developed between 1950 to 1989 to ascertain trends in disability measurement. Content analysis reveals that measures have followed three predominant patterns: a self care to a functional focus, a physical to a psychosocial focus, and a clinician to a client focus. These patterns related issues are discussed. The development of physical therapy measures requires the consideration of various perspectives, including the consumer perspective. Physical therapy measures must reflect a perspective which integrates physical capacity, physical function and environmental concerns.