Public Policy Disabilities

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3. The experience of this particular disadvantaged group has generally been one of exploitation, exclusion, dehumanisation and regulation.’ (Barton, 1986: 276).Discuss this in relation to the role of public policy in the lives of disabled people.

Through the implementation of public policies the government has been able to improve the lives of disabled people within the United Kingdom, providing more tailored goods and services thanks to communicating with pressure groups and forming task driven committees to help accommodate people with special needs. This essay discusses the way in which these individuals are perceived in society and whether it is a problem to be solved by medical means, or should society adapt to ease their inclusion. Also discussed are the improvements made in the treatment of disabled people, with reference to employment, independent living and care from a young age. The essay goes on to find that although disabled people have been given greater rights to equality in recent years, there are still areas where they are disproportionately missing out on state provided benefits.

Historically there have been ideals of how the human body should look, and disabled people were often treated poorly due to little being known about many conditions. Through education and understanding, overtime this minority has gained a voice on the national stage to have their wants satisfied. But before we discuss the effects of government intervention through public policy on the lives of disabled people we must first define disabilities as seen from a contemporary society. Under The Equality Act 2010, you are disabled if you have a “physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”. The initial statement regarding impairment is fairly straight forward, if there is a physical or mental defect stopping an individual from carrying out a task it could be said they are disabled. The reference to “normal daily activities” (The Equality Act 2010) is more complex, evoking the question, what is normal? This is a key point to our understanding and treatment of disabled people. The debate as how best to treat individuals continues, and whether it should be done through medical means or socio-economic.

The medical model of disability treats impairments as a tragic problem that an individual has been unfortunate enough to be born with or develop later in life. This model likens disabilities to diseases and defines a clear problem that should be fixed so the person can be more like everyone else. There is a lot of stigma involved in branding an individual in such a way and can lead to social problems, like losing out on education, employment opportunities and housing. “government policies over the last 20 years have gone some way to improve the lives of impaired citizens, but further labelling and segregation of people only makes things worse”(Morris, 2011). In her report Morris argues that grouping people with a wide range of disorders under one heading can lead to greater problems of exclusion and dehumanisation. In some cases this may be true, people have a hardwired craving to feel included and the separation from mainstream society may have negative social consequences, but the grouping together of individuals into a collective means a bigger voice which is much harder to ignore. Conversely to Morris, some commentators believe the grouping together of people with similar ailments can have a beneficial effect and give people a “sense of community and belonging” (Biklen, 2005). Although some people may not enjoy being labelled as disabled it does seem to be an effective way to be heard and get access to much needed funds.

The social model for the treatment of disabilities attempts to invert the problem and discuss what society can do to better facilitate all citizens, regardless of ability. Under this model, an impairment is no longer seen as...
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