Disability Models

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“We should stop focussing on the person with disabilities and turn our attention to disabling environments.” Discuss with relevance to completing explanations of disability.

Date: 14/03/13

Word Count: 1,442

“We should stop focussing on the person with disabilities and turn our attention to disabling environments”. This can be done by focussing on the social and rights based models of disability. There are four main models of disability, these are; the charity model, the medical model, the social model and the rights based model. The rights based model and the social model of disability are both closely related. The main point of view within the charity and medical models is that the problem is viewed as being the disabled individual whereas within the social and rights based model the problem is viewed as being the disabling society.

The Charity model tends to view the disabled as people who are unable to do things for themselves. The view of this model is that able people would need to look after those with disabilities, protect them and make decisions for them. The main problem with this model being that it takes the disabled persons independence away as they get used to other people doing everything for them. It also represents disabled people as sufferers of conditions who deserve pity instead of portraying them as individuals who are able to do things for themselves and lead a ‘normal’ life. “Nabil Shaban said: ‘The biggest problem that we, the disabled have is that you, the non-disabled, are only comfortable when you see us as icons of pity.’ Because disabled people are seen as tragic victims, it follows that they need care, are not capable of looking after themselves or managing their own affairs and need charity in order to survive.” (DRC, n.d.) This view can lower the self-esteem and pride of people with disabilities as they feel that they cannot do anything for themselves and constantly need help.

The medical model is where medical professionals are involved resulting in increasing specialisation in the care of people with disabilities, this model focuses on the impairment of the individual. It “is presented as viewing disability as a problem of the person, directly caused by disease, trauma or other health condition which therefore requires sustained medical care provided in the form of individual treatment by professionals.” (Disabled world towards tomorrow, 2010)

The social model was brought about by disability activists, and it suggests that the person is affected by the disabling society and its failure to adapt to their needs. For example, the wheelchair is not the obstacle, the stairs are! A wheelchair can go anywhere with proper disability access. It “sees the issue of ‘disability’ as a socially created problem and highlights the need for full integration of individuals into society.” (Disabled world towards tomorrow, 2010) This model puts the focus onto society in general rather than the disabled person. The social model suggests that there is inadequate education, services and inaccessible transport and buildings – the whole focus is on making the environment more enabling for people with disabilities. The rights based model is where the emphasis has been moved from dependence to independence and this is closely tied in with the social model.

Disability can be defined as “the result of negative interactions that take place between a person with an impairment and her or his social environment. Impairment is thus part of a negative interaction, but it is not the cause of, nor does it justify, disability.” (Leeds, n.d.) A disabling environment, however, is when an individual is in a situation that they do not have control of their life due to physical or social barriers. “Where someone is denied the opportunities to attain personhood – through laws, policies, practices and prejudices – because of a perceived impairment, then we are confronted with a...
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