Medical And Social Models Of Disability

2271 words - 9 pages

It could be said that in modern industrial society, Disability is still widely regarded as tragic individual failing, in which its “victims” require care, sympathy and medical diagnosis. Whilst medical science has served to improve and enhance the quality of life for many it could be argued that it has also led to further segregation and separation of many individuals. This could be caused by its insistence on labelling one as “sick”, “abnormal” or “mental”. Consequently, what this act of labelling and diagnosing has done, is enforce the societal view that a disability is an abnormality that requires treatment and that any of its “victims” should do what is required to be able to function in society as an able bodied individual.
The social model of disability argues against this and instead holds the view that it is society, not the individual that needs to change and do what is required, so that everyone can function in society. As this statement from the Green Party Manifesto claims that “Disability is a social phenomenon” and “While many individuals have physical or sensory impairments or learning difficulties or are living with mental health problems, it is the way society responds to these which creates disability” (2010). The aim of this paper is to consider the strength of this view. With the help of modern and contemporary sociological theory surrounding disability and health it will look at both the medical and social models of disability with the aim to conclude whether disability is a problem that needs to be addressed by medical professionals alone or by society as a whole.
The medical model defines disability as “any restriction or lack of ability (resulting from an impairment of an individual) to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being, for example, to climb stairs or walk to the shops (WHO 1981). The strong word in this definition is the word ‘normal’ whereby it can be said that the medical model aims to separate those who are considered normal and those that are not by terms of their ability or impairments in regards to undertaking a given tasks. It could be argued that this separation is not an easy task due to the scale and wide range of physical and psychological impairments that exist in a modern aging society, as Barnes and Mercer state “the notion that disablement is a medical problem which affects only a small proportion of the population can no longer be sustained” (1996:11). According the 2011 census one fifth of the population in the UK where registered as having a disability (ONS 2011) , according to another study, four out of every ten adult women and men have a `long standing illness or disability' (CSO, 1996). The size of these figures, when combined with an aging population that is forever rising, are only set to increase year on year. With these figures in mind it could be argued that the full “range of actions” considered normal by society can only be fully...

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