Disability Models

“We should stop focussing on the person with disabilities and turn our attention to disabling environments”. This can be done by focussing on the social and rights based models of disability. There are four main models of disability, these are; the charity model, the medical model, the social model and the rights based model. The rights based model and the social model of disability are both closely related. The main point of view within the charity and medical models is that the problem is viewed as being the disabled individual whereas within the social and rights based model the problem is viewed as being the disabling society.

The Charity model tends to view the disabled as people who are unable to do things for themselves. The view of this model is that able people would need to look after those with disabilities, protect them and make decisions for them. The main problem with this model being that it takes the disabled persons independence away as they get used to other people doing everything for them. It also represents disabled people as sufferers of conditions who deserve pity instead of portraying them as individuals who are able to do things for themselves and lead a ‘normal’ life.

“Nabil Shaban said: ‘The biggest problem that we, the disabled have is that you, the non-disabled, are only comfortable when you see us as icons of pity. ’ Because disabled people are seen as tragic victims, it follows that they need care, are not capable of looking after themselves or managing their own affairs and need charity in order to survive. ” (DRC, n. d. )

This view can lower the self-esteem and pride of people with disabilities as they feel that they cannot do anything for themselves and constantly need help. The medical model is where medical professionals are involved resulting in increasing specialisation in the care of people with disabilities, this model focuses on the impairment of the individual.

It “is presented as viewing disability as a problem of the person, directly caused by disease, trauma or other health condition which therefore requires sustained medical care provided in the form of individual treatment by professionals. ” (Disabled world towards tomorrow, 2010) The social model was brought about by disability activists, and it suggests that the person is affected by the disabling society and its failure to adapt to their needs.

For example, the wheelchair is not the obstacle, the stairs are! A wheelchair can go anywhere with proper disability access. It “sees the issue of ‘disability’ as a socially created problem and highlights the need for full integration of individuals into society. ” (Disabled world towards tomorrow, 2010) This model puts the focus onto society in general rather than the disabled person. The social model suggests that there is inadequate education, services and inaccessible transport and buildings – the whole focus is on making the environment more enabling for people with disabilities.

The rights based model is where the emphasis has been moved from dependence to independence and this is closely tied in with the social model. Disability can be defined as “the result of negative interactions that take place between a person with an impairment and her or his social environment. Impairment is thus part of a negative interaction, but it is not the cause of, nor does it justify, disability. ” (Leeds, n. d. ) A disabling environment, however, is when an individual is in a situation that they do not have control of their life due to physical or social barriers.

“Where someone is denied the opportunities to attain personhood – through laws, policies, practices and prejudices – because of a perceived impairment, then we are confronted with a disabling society (and often a disabling construction of personhood). ” (Priestley, M. 2001: 56) This proves that we should be focusing more on the disabling environment and helping these individuals gain control of their life so that they have the same rights and freedom as others without a disability.

Even with the physical barrier being removed, negative attitudes still exist creating barriers in all areas. The Scottish curriculum – The Curriculum for Excellence – ensures children throughout their school life are treated equally and inclusion is an important factor. This encourages, as far as possible, children with disabilities to lead their life like any other child. “In the past four decades the prevailing wisdom about the cause of disability has undergone profound change.

Previous models of absolute determinism that viewed pathology and disability interchangeably and that excluded consideration of the environment have been replaced by models in which disability is seen to result from the interaction between the characteristics of individuals with potentially disabling conditions and the characteristics of their environment. ” (Brandt, E. N. and Pope, A. M. 1997: 147)

This states that society’s views of disabled people have undoubtedly changed over time and that the social and rights based model of disability has been implemented more. In the 16th century, Christians specified that people who were mentally retarded and people with other disabilities were possessed by evil spirits.

This ignorance led the leaders of that time to subject people with disabilities to mental or physical pain in the belief that it would drive out the spirits. “Variations in the treatment of persons with disabilities are manifest in Africa as in other parts of the world (Amoako 1977). Among the Chagga in East Africa, the physically handicapped were perceived as pacifiers of the evil spirits. Hence, care was taken not to harm the physically handicapped. ” (Munyi, C. W. , 2012). Whilst no harm came to the disabled in this case they were still misunderstood.

Legislation has been brought about in the majority of western countries to try to eliminate discrimination towards disabilities, for example the provisions and impact of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, this made “discrimination in employment on grounds of disability unlawful. ” (Riddell, S. and Banks, P. 2001:37) This allows people with a disability to be treated as an equal, something that may not have happened many centuries ago. “Lippman (1972) observed that in many European countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, citizens with disabilities are more accepted than in the United States.

He found that these countries also provided more effective rehabilitation services. The prevalent philosophy in Scandinavian countries is acceptance of social responsibility for all members of the society, without regard to the type or degree of disabling condition. ” (Munyi, C. W. , 2012) Emphasizing the right for disabled people to be treated equally the same as an able-bodied person. “A mechanism is needed by which all organisations involved with disabled people can assist them to get their distinctive views heard, both within their organisations and to government.

Rowen said that Equality 2025 is thinking how they might be able to help build links between disabled people (including those supported by a plethora of different organisations), and government’s ear. ” (Rickell, A. , 2009) This shows that although we have come a long way in providing equality for people with disabilities, we still have a long way to go. We need to include their input whilst creating legislation to support them. “Burton Blatt (1981) wrote, “A person is defined by the stories he tells about himself as well as by the stories that are told about him.

“Too often, stories are told about people with disabilities and the emphasis is on the voice of the professional, not the voice of the disabled person. (Biklen, 1988; Biklen & Duchan, 1994; Blatt, 1981; Bogdan & Taylor, 1976, 1994; Kliewer & Biklen, 1996)” (Ashby, C. , 2011) This clearly states that society needs to allow disabled people to speak for themselves and voice their own opinion, as Stevie Wonder says “Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision. ”

(Stevie Wonder, n. d.) individuals with a disability are just as capable as those without a disability – we need to allow them to show this and provide them with an enabling environment to do so. Within today’s society people with a disability are generally more accepted than in centuries past. Realization that the environment is disabling those with disabilities has resulted in legislation to avoid this. “For most of the world, however, disability is still viewed as a medical problem – and the danger of the medical model is that it seeks medical rather than societal solutions. ” (Priestley, M.2001: 47)

We should be trying to focus on the social and rights based model rather than the medical or charity model as we should believe as a society that the environment is what deters those with disabilities from achieving their full potential. We should be focusing on making the environment more accessible so that everyone can fulfil their life’s ambitions and capabilities. References Priestley, M. (2001) Disability and the Life Course Global Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Riddell, S. and Banks, P. (2001) Disability in Scotland A Baseline Study.

Disability Rights Commission. Brandt, E. N. and Pope, A. M. (1997) Enabling America: Assessing the Role of Rehabilitation Science and Engineering. National Academy of Sciences. Disabled World towards tomorrow (2010) Definitions of The Models of Disability [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 26 February 2013] DRC with liberty and access for all (n. d. ) Models of Disability [Internet] DRC. Available from: [Accessed 26 February 2013] Munyi, C. W. (2012) Past and Present Perceptions towards Disability: A Historical Perspective [Internet] Disability studies Quarterly.

Available From: [Accessed 26 February 2013] Leeds (n. d. ) Defining Impairment and Disability [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 27 February 2013] Rickell, A. (2009) The Right to a Voice That’s Heard [Internet] Disabilitynow. Available from: [Accessed 27 February 2013] Ashby, C. (2011) Whose “Voice” is it Anyway? : Giving Voice and Qualitative Research Involving Individuals that Type to Communicate [Internet] Disability studies quarterly. Available from: [Accessed 27 February 2013] Stevie Wonder (n. d. ) Words of Wonder [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 1 March 2013]