Disability and Barriers

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In the past people with disabilities have been viewed as being a “problem” or a “less than whole” where the focus was on their condition or impairment. This way of thinking was very dominant in the 1900’s to 1970’s and known as the medical model where people were institutionalised, detained or confined and hid away from society. The 1980’s brought about change when the social model emerged with the concept of inclusion, where people with disabilities were viewed as individuals with rights. There was an ethos of protecting and accepting disabled people, with a move towards integration and inclusion into society. The social model was for people with disabilities to have a right to actively participate in, and contribute to society as equals and without dependence on family, institutions or charity. The world health organisation in 1980 used a medicalised definition of Disability:

‘An Impairment is any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function; a disability is any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the range that is considered normal for a human being…’

The Oxford Dictionary definition of Inclusion:

“The action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure”

A disability can range from being very mild to severe but each person still will have a certain capacity to be included in everyday society whether it be education, employment, transport, relationships, independence, dignity to make their own choices but it’s how society allows the person to be included is what is important. The words which society uses to describe someone with a disability can often reveal the attitudes of the society towards the individual. Despite changes in the actual words used, the terminology used to describe disabilities has continued to label those with an disability as being different from and considerable less able than the rest of society thus excluding rather than including people in to society. (www.ahead.ie) The question of disability began to be understood as a form of social oppression, and it was connected to issues of equity, social justice and human rights.

There has been a change in attitude, mainly because people with disabilities no longer see themselves as recipients of charity, but as people who have rights as citizens to fulfil their potential. Government policies, both nationally and internationally, have exposed a vision where people with disabilities are valued, respected and included. This vision has provided a move for change in the practices of people working in the disability area focusing on participation and interactions for people with a disability with others who do not have a disability in everyday living. Inclusion means involvement in activities, developing and maintaining relationships, and having a sense of belonging. It is important that people are not segregated due to their disability in living or working arrangements. (www.nap.ie national Action plan).

A combination of linked problems lead to people with disabilities not been fully included in society from poverty, segregation, discrimination and inadequate provision of support services. Government policies and legislation should allow for each person to live an equal life in society including equal rights to a place to live, and equal right to a fair wage, an equal right to full access to all services and the right to a lifestyle of their own choice. According to Inclusion Ireland, legislation and policies have come a long way from the Government Green Paper on Disability, Towards a Full Future (1984), stated people with disabilities required goodwill, not legislation where government were still conforming to the medical model on disability. It took until the 1990’s for Irish Government to properly acknowledge that people with disabilities hadn’t the same rights as other and were treated differently. The development of National Disability...
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