Hand-out 1A - Models

Disability - A Different Model?

Definitions of disability can be arrived at by using at least two kinds of explanations. One of these has been called the Individual model and the other the Social model. It is the latter, i.e. the Social Model that organisations and groups controlled by disabled people prefer and use.

The Individual Model
The Individual Model, can be subdivided into two further models, i.e. the medical Model and the Charity model.

In the Medical Model the individual disabled person is seen as the problem. The model is based on the view of the body as sick, invalid (in-valid), defective and being in need of a 'cure'. Successful 'rehabilitation' is measured by the achievement, or impression of achievement of 'normalcy'. For instance, it is seen as better - or more 'normal' - for a person to be able to stand and walk, even if slowly and with difficulty, than to get around more quickly using a wheelchair. The disabled person or 'patient' is the recipient of the services of expert carers and professionals, and where so-called 'normalisation' is not possible, the disabled person is viewed as tragic.

The Charity Model is also part of the Individual Model approach, and it the tragic disabled person also passively and 'gratefully' receives help. The charity providers, like the medical experts, often decide what they think disabled people need. The close relationship between levels of pity invoked and the amount of money donated adversely affects the images of disabled people which charities often use in their advertising and approach. 'Tragic helplessness', particularly of disabled children as opposed to adults, is the image charities use and it is not surprising that some charities are likely to be more successful in getting funding than others, irrespective of actual need.

Inadequacies of the Individual Model
The problem with this perspective on disability is that it highlights only some of the things which disable a person in society, and ignores the major barriers disabled people face. Disabled people are arguing that what disables them most is the way society is organised to meet the needs of non-disabled people. Medical conditions are only part of the 'problem'.

The solutions suggested to the problems would be likely to be individual medical aids or operations which would enable the person to be more mobile or 'normal'. What it does not suggest is that transport, buildings and services should be designed to give full access to everyone.

The Social Model
In the social model the medical condition is seen to be only a part of the so-called 'problem'. Using this approach, the day to day problems disabled people face are identified as very different - centering around the fact that society is organised to meet the needs of non-disabled people, i.e. so-called 'normal' people.

The result is that disabled people are unnecessarily segregated because of a badly designed built-environment, inaccessible public transport, and discriminatory attitudes and practices in institutions such as education and employment. Such barriers bar very many disabled people from obtain ing an adequate education, a job, an adequate income, and opportunities for a full social life.

Why use the Social Model?
It is suggested that the social model, is a more positive and much more useful model because the disabling factors are all the things about which something can be done.

Disabled people live in a hostile, disabling environment which is designed for a particular 'norm' (a norm which incidentally effectively disables other members of the community who lack economic or professional power such as women with pushchairs and young children). The problem is not, for instance, that a particular disability imprisons people in 'ordinary' housing but that the housing itself is inadequate to meet a range of people's needs and rights. In the social model, the disabled people are no longer seen as individuals with unfortunate 'defects', but as an oppressed group in society.

The social model not only helps draw attention to the barriers in society, but offers solutions which are wider ranging than just trying to change the person, i.e. make the individual non-disabled. The disabled person ceases to be a failure ('isn't it tragic we couldn't cure her?', 'Isn't it awful, there is something wrong with her and she can't get out.') and instead discrimination in society can be more honestly and constructively looked at.

The social model is more revealing of the rights that disabled people are denied and it is the context of this denial of rights of access to economic, political and social power that many disable people describe themselves as 'oppressed'.

*Taken from: Challenging a Disabling World. Milton Keynes World Development Education Centre. UK.

Two Models of Disability

A model is a framework by which we make sense of information. For the sake of clarity we shall consider two models or approaches to disability: the individual model and the social model.

The Individual (or 'Medical') Model
The medical model views an impairment as an 'abnormality' - which assumes that there is 'normality'. An abnormality needs to be 'corrected', 'cured', 'overcome'. The medical model has value in certain contexts but when it is used as the only model for approaching disability, it is seriously defective: based on the concept of 'normality' and 'abnormality', it sees the human body as flexible and alterable and the social environment as fixed and unalterable: if a person does not fit the social environment, then that person - not the environment - must be made to change. A rehabilitation model is needed which does not accept and endorse the barriers placed in the way of disabled people by society, but breaks them down.

The Social Model
The social model for disability starts from the point that integration is ultimately about removing barriers, not 'normalisation', cure or care. Rehabilitation conducted within a comprehensive social framework is about the removal of barriers at the individual level; it is also about the removal of physical and attitudinal barriers in society at large. Both able-bodied professionals and disabled people are caught up in the medical model of rehabilitation, largely because this model is only now beginning to be questioned, and the vast majority of disabled people and professional therapists have never known anything else.

*Taken from: Coleridge P. (1992). Development, Liberation and Disability. Oxfam, UK and Ireland.


Fatal error: Uncaught Error: Call to undefined function mysql_connect() in /home3/eenet/public_html/reference.php:6 Stack trace: #0 /home3/eenet/public_html/resources/docs/handout1a.php(73): require() #1 {main} thrown in /home3/eenet/public_html/reference.php on line 6