Introductory Awareness of Models of Disability

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Introductory Awareness of Models of Disability Models of disability provide a framework for understanding the way in which people with impairments experience disability. They also provide a reference for society as laws, regulations and structures are developed that impact on the lives of disabled people. There are two main models that have influenced modern thinking about disability – the medical model and the social model. The medical model of disability reflects the World Health Organization definition of disability. Under the medical model, disabled people are defined by their illness or medical condition. The medical model of disability says people are disabled by their impairments or differences. Under the medical model, these impairments or differences should be fixed or changed by medical and other treatments, even when the impairment or difference does not cause pain or illness. The medical model looks at what is 'wrong' with the person and not what the person needs. It creates low expectations and leads to people losing independence, choice and control in their own lives. They are disempowered: medical diagnoses are used to regulate and control access to social benefits, housing, education, leisure and employment. The medical model promotes the view of a disabled person as dependent and needing to be cured or cared for, and it justifies the way in which disabled people have been systematically excluded from society. The disabled person is the problem, not society. Control resides firmly with professionals as choices for the individual are limited to the options provided and approved by the 'helping' expert. The medical model is sometimes known as the ‘individual model’ because it promotes the notion that it is the individual disabled person who must adapt to the way in which society is constructed and organised. The medical model is

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