Thirty-six severely mobility-disabled subjects aged 24-52 years using a wheelchair and in need of daily assistance and 36 non-handicapped, matched control-subjects were interviewed. They were asked to rank 30 different abilities involving physical and mental functions, interpersonal and social relationships, and to rate their overall quality of life (QOL) on a 0-10 point scale. Among the severely mobility-disabled subjects the mean value of self-reported QOL was 8.0, which differs only slightly from 8.3 among the controls. The mean QOL among the disabled showed no significant difference regarding congenital/acquired and progressive/permanent disability. The 'abilities' ranked 1-9 were not directly related to mobility and corresponded among the disabled and non-handicapped. The functions lacked by the severely mobility-disabled persons were rated as less important by the disabled. The undiminished QOL is probably a result of personal adjustment, compensation by medical rehabilitation and society, as well as positive features of the disability.