How Does The ‘Social Model Of Disability’ Differ From A ‘Medical Perspective’?

1090 words - 5 pages

The two most frequently mentioned ‘models’ of disability are defined as the ‘social’ and the ‘medical’ models of disability.
The medical model of disability views disability as a ‘problem’ that belongs to the disabled individual. It is not seen as an issue to concern anyone other than the individual affected, For example, if a student who requires a wheelchair needed access to a build that only access was by steps, the medical model would suggest that the problem lies with the wheelchair and its user, rather than the steps. (Cameron 2014)

The social model of disability would see the presence of the steps as the disabling barrier. This model draws on the idea that it is society that ...view middle of the document...

The onus is on the organiser to make sure that the activity is fully accessible.
For example; prior to a lecture the staff member will upload the PowerPoint presentation to Blackboard to make available to all members of the group. This ensures dyslexic students the opportunity to familiarise themselves with certain terminology and if necessary the structure and font of the presentation that will follow. This ‘framing’ helps students to understand and retain the information.

Oliver has observed that dependency is not the inevitable outcome of impairment, but is created by the social, economic and political system in which disabled people live (Oliver, 1996).
However a medical model understanding would perceive impairment as the fundamental reason for the disabled person to feel disadvantaged and disempowered– and suggest the resolution of these could be achieved by changing the individual - the social model enabled a different outlook. Allowing disabled people to recognize that what was required in order to address disabling barriers were legislative changes so that access became a legal requirement (Equality act 2010), effective means of ensuring that new laws are complied with, and changes in the thinking underpinning public service planning and delivery at local authority level (Swain, French and Cameron, 2003). The social model is ‘a simplified representation of a complex social reality’ and ‘a practical guide to action’ (Oliver and Barnes, 2012:22).
Medical model thinking does not appear as just ‘one way of looking’ but as established fact. It is considered common sense to regard impairment as misfortune. (Cameron 2014)

Micheline Mason identifies the influence of the medical model of disability as having a role in the oppression of all people, both disabled and non-disabled. The removal of people identified as having significant impairments from the mainstream of social life, as well as being oppressive to people with impairments themselves, has rendered impairment a subject of fear and embarrassment that non-disabled people feel unsure about and uncomfortable dealing with (in Rieser and Mason, 1992:78). Through a process involving the medicalization of society (Zola, 2005), forms of social knowledge have been imposed which suggest that aberration from socially valued norms of physical embodiment is exceptional rather than an ordinary part of human experience and is best addressed by professionals.

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