Saturday, June 15, 2024

What Is The Social And Medical Model Of Disability

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Current Debate Commentary And Blogs

What is the social model of disability? – Scope video

Please note that the views expressed by these sites & commentators are not necessarily those upheld by Inclusion London

  • Jenny Morris is an academic and commentator who addresses a number of important issues about disability, rights and representation in her blog.
  • DPAC is a grassroots campaigning organisation, run by and for Disabled people. Its website is good source of information and commentary about current issues affecting Disabled people and current campaigns.
  • Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance is a grassroots alliance of Disabled people and our organisations in England.
  • Tom Shakespeare is a disabled academic who historically has been supportive and influential in the disability movement in the UK and internationally. In the early 2000s, he started to challenge the Social Model of Disability and argue that the time had come to move beyond this position. We challenge his position but also urge you to understand his arguments.

He has moved on and developed an other model of disability focusing on Human rights, which you can see him discuss on YouTube.

What Does Social Model Of Disabilitymean To You

At SCOPE, the disability equality charity in England and Wales, explains what is the social model of disability, and they provide practical advice and emotional support whenever people need them. The video shows a series of interviews discussing on what social model of Disability means.Kiruna Stamell in the video: Discovering the social model was a massive liberation on another level. Yeah I was being treated differently and no it wasn’t me being deficient. It was everybody else’s social anxieties being projected onto me.Please go to the website here, to read the transcript of the video.

Imagine the frustration of people who use things designed by people who dont take their basic needs into consideration. I think it is dehumanizing.When I sit down to design things I try to put on the veil of ignorance. I imagine a world where I am not who I am right now. And I think about all the things that could possibly frustrate me. Then I think some more.I try to design for that reality. I dont design for myself and my perfect eyesight, my retina screens, and my fast internet connection.

Social And Medical Models Of Disability And Mental Health: Evolution And Renewal

Over the last 6 decades, many published commentaries, from both within and outside the medical community, have criticized medicines characterization and management of mental illness and disability. These critiques have often referenced the medical model, a term that has multiple meanings but has almost always been used pejoratively. Prominent critics have included disability scholars and self-advocates, who attacked the so-called medical model and espoused an alternative social model, which characterizes disability as the product of an unaccommodating and oppressive society, rather than an individual and medical problem.

The terms social model and medical model have frequently been used to highlight opposing views of disability, but there has been little historical examination of their origins and evolving meanings. As a result, clinicians have had limited access to information about what these concepts mean to patients, making it difficult to respond adequately to the concerns they raise. For physicians, fully embracing social-model views would require political engagement and a greater focus on societal, rather than individual, problems. Even if most physicians do not adopt these roles, increased awareness of disability perspectives and familiarity with critiques of the medical model may help them to identify new ways of improving care for their patients, while also enhancing opportunities and support for clinical trainees and colleagues with disabilities.

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Examples Of The Social Model In Action

  • You are a disabled person who cant use stairs and wants to get into a building with a step at the entrance. The social model recognises that this is a problem with the building, not the person, and would suggest adding a ramp to the entrance.
  • You are a teenager with a learning difficulty who wants to live independently in your own home, but you dont know how to pay the rent. The social model recognises that with the right support on how to pay your rent, you can live the life you choose. The medical model might assume that the barriers to independent living are insurmountable, and you might be expected to live in a care home.

An illustration of the social model of disability in practice would be a town designed with wheelchairs in mind, with no stairs or escalators. If we designed our environment this way, wheelchair users would be able to be as independent as everyone else. It is society which puts these barriers on people by not making our environments accessible to everyone.

The problem isnt that I cant get into a lecture theatre, the problem is that the lecture theatre isnt accessible to me.. Professor Mike Oliver

Professor Michael Oliver was a British academic, author, and disability rights activist. He was Emeritus Professor of Disability Studies at the University of Greenwich. Much of his work centered on advocating the social model of disability.

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Medical Model In Practice

The Social Model of Disability

This leads us onto the ways that the medical model exists in attitudes as well as practice.

Societies and individuals recreate the construct of non-disabled as normal in latent and blatant ways regularly.

Language is one way that cultural ideas are practiced in unintentional ways.

A key word from the medical model lexicon was handicapped. There are various accounts of the etymology of the phrase, but simply it means that someone has a physical limitation.

Other Medical Model language includes phrases like the handicapped or the blind to refer to disabled or blind people as whole subsections of society, homogenous and other.

In response to this, many disabled people started to advocate for people first language where they would be seen as a person, where before they were seen as their impairment.

In that way they might be a person with a disability or a person with a visual impairment.

The phrase able-bodied is, although commonly used today, also derived from the Medical Model. In identifying people who arent disabled as able-bodied, we understand the opposite of disabled to be abled.

This both infers that disabled people arent able and also that disability is located in a persons body, that disability is physical and that disability is visible.

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The Medical Model Of Disability

The medical model states that disability is caused by the health condition a person has and the nature of this condition will determine what they can and cant do. The medical model would say that in order for everyone to participate fully in society, everyone would need a non-disabled body and mind. This makes disability the result of the person being different, not of society.

Convention On The Rights Of People With Disabilities

Entered into force on 3 May 2008, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities represents the first international convention on the rights of PWDs. As of June 2011, 101 countries have ratified and 149 countries have signed the Convention. Negotiation of the Convention involved a wide range of delegates from government, non-government, human rights and international organisations. It was the first time that non-government organisations had actively participated in the formation of a human rights instrument. Influence of the social model can be seen in the CRPD definition of PWDs:

Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others .

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Social And Human Rights Models

Based on a human rights paradigm, these models emphasize that disability-related problems stem from an inaccessible social structure, as opposed to the disability itself. These models focus on environmental and attitudinal barriers that prevent people with disabilities from having equal opportunities in their societies. Many disability rights activists today embrace social and/or human rights models to inform their work.

What it looks like: A person with a disability is able to attend a school, go to work, participate in community activities alongside non-disabled people, perhaps using disability-related accommodations or modifications that make the environment more accessible to them.

Diagram of Social Model of Disability adapted from

My Struggle With The Medical Model Of Disability In My Youth

What is the Medical Model of Disability

Labeled disabled as a young child, Ive fallen into the medical model of disability and have struggled my entire life as an outcast/outsider. Because the medical model assigns predominantly medical significance and meaning to certain types of human variation, I certainly understand the significance of the medical model and the difficulties that come with such a label.

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Understanding The Medical Model Vs The Social Model Of Disability

Inclusive UX Design & Web Development Specialist at Blue Beacon Creative, Founder & CEO at Blue Beacon Creative

When discussing disabilities, two standard models come to mind when attempting to understand different conditions: the Social Model and the Medical Model of Disability.

While both the medical and social models of disability have a long history of understanding disabilities in society, each model has a unique perspective on the disability experience.

Social Model Vs Medical Model: An Example

As an example of the differences between these two models, let’s think about the disability experience through the eyes of someone with Cerebral Palsy.

A person with Cerebral Palsy may be told that the condition can be treated with physical therapy and medication to make the situation more manageable. However, they may also be told that the underlying condition is likely permanent and unlikely to get better over time.

Someone with Cerebral Palsy may seem to have always been this way. But, if you use the social model perspective, you could say that they may have had the condition since birth but were unaware of its presence because the condition was not detected earlier in their daily lives until they interacted more with their environment or failed to reach some developmental goals.

A social model thinker would see someone with Cerebral Palsy as having an impairment. However, the person could still lead a fulfilling life if proper accommodations were implemented.

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Understanding The Social Model Of Deafness

This model suggests that a disability only occurs when a deaf person is excluded due to their deafness. The model embraces deafness as a unique difference, and thought is given on how people can participate in all activities and not be excluded.

For example, if the deaf person has access to web chat or SMS and the bank provides access in this way, the deaf persons disability effectively ceases to exist. This is the social model.

What Is The Medical Model Of Disability

Social Model

So you can kind of get an idea of what is the medical model of disability: its the opposite.

And the way that is looked at the persons disability is causing the barrier. The person, in a way, is causing that problem. That person has the medical condition, but its stopping them from doing things that they want to do. And that medical model mindset also imply that for a person to fully engage in society and to achieve everything that you want, you must have that non-disabled body and mind.

If you think about it, that then passes the problem on to that disabled person who has a disability and they cant achieve what they want to achieve because of them because of their medical condition, not because of how things are set up any other way.

Thats not really a good mindset, really. Im trying to work out, unless you know, why is that a good mindset to have? Why is it good to have a medical model of disability in the forefront rather than a social model?

I strongly believe in a social model, and thats why when I say I am deaf, I am hard of hearing or whatever, I will say I am disabled as well. But from the social model of disability.

So of course, example of the medical model disabilities are if cinemas, you go to watch a movie, theyre not captioned, well its not the cinemas problem. The problem is the person who came that person cant hear. Therefore that person is the issue.

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How Society Can Benefit From The Social Model Of Disability

Unfortunately, the mindset is strongly on the medical model of disability in todays world, from my opinion, from what Im seeing, from my own experiences and other peoples experience as well, and thats a problem that we need to change because Ive talked about how inclusivity can benefit everyone.

It can make a big difference to people that you would never have thought of before. Thats what Ive talked about the curb-cut effect. It really can make an impact in society.

And if more people are involved in every aspect of life in terms of career or going shopping or going travelling or anything, that benefits society because people are spending money. There are more things to do. There are better facilities for everyone. And like I said, even if youre not disabled, youre going to benefit from these things as well, because that is how it works. Inclusivity can benefit everyone.

And we just need to have that mindset from the first start, from any time when we have a project, whether its building a new building or whether its starting a new website or you creating content, we always need to bear in mind when we think about it, right, who do I want to target? Ok, the society? But there are so many different people.

So lets make sure everyone can access what you want to create.

Lets see what we can do so. So hopefully you have enjoyed this. Let me know what you think.

In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.

Take care!

Compare And Contrast Different Models Of Disability

Several models of defining disability have been developed to try to address the many types of disabilities. Models of disability provide a reference for society as programs and services, laws, regulations and structures are developed, which affect the lives of people living with a disability. The primary models of disability used are the Medical Model, Functional Model, and Social Model.

Medical ModelThe medical model describes disability as a consequence of a health condition, disease or caused by a trauma that can disrupt the functioning of a person in a physiological or cognitive way.14 This model is a conceptualization of disability as a condition a person has and focuses on the prevention, treatment or curing of the disabling condition.

Functional ModelThis model is similar to the medical model in that it conceptualizes disability as an impairment or deficit. Disability is caused by physical, medical or cognitive deficits. The disability itself limits a persons functioning or the ability to perform functional activities.

Social Model This model focuses on barriers facing people with disabilities instead of concentrating on impairments and deficits of the person with a disability. In this model a persons activities are limited not by the impairment or condition but by environment and barriers are consequences of a lack of social organization.14

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How Does This Affect People With Learning Disabilities

Using the social model of disability as a theory instead of the medical model can change peoples outlooks on what other people can achieve, and how organisations and our environments should be structured. People who follow this way of thinking will be able to see past the outdated policies and procedures that can be a barrier to people with learning disabilities leading full and active lives.

Despite much progression in the public perception of people with learning disabilities, there is still some stigma about what people with learning disabilities can and cant do. Using the social model of disability, there should be no limits set on what people with learning disabilities can achieve the key is finding the support which they need to enable them to achieve these things.

The academic Tom Shakespeare writes on the need to reject treating the social model as a sacred cow that must not be challenged, instead proposing a movement towards a medical and social continuum, with the central argument that as we are all impaired in some manner, it is not the core component of disability. The impact of the body on ones life is thus included, without needing to divide between disabled and non-disabled people.

The Social Model Of Disability

The Social Model of Disability

In addition to pointing to the tangible environmental and structural changes that could be made to be more inclusive for people of differing body types, the social model of disability focuses attention on the attitudinal obstacles faced by people with non-standard bodies. Other peoples expectations about quality of life, ability to work, etc. for a person with a disability not only affect the ways in which physical structures and institutional norms are made and sustained , but also can create additional disability by making it harder for such individuals to feel good about themselves. For instance, Jenny Morris raises concerns about how all the undermining messages, which we receive every day of our lives from the non-disabled world which surrounds us, become part of our way of thinking about ourselves .

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Applying The Social Model

Sometimes people are more ready to make adaptations for those with visible disabilities. Compared to those with hidden, or poorly understood disabilities. The social model of disability asserts that it is the person with the disability who knows best about their requirements. This model concentrates on a persons needs instead of their diagnosis.

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