Although I would ultimately like this blog to become a place where my own views and thoughts of what i’m studying is what is being written here, the first few things i’m going to post will be a little more academic. I will need to offer some terms and definitions and theories to people who may be reading this with no background knowledge to disability studies, and people who may read what what i’m writing about later on as the blog progresses. Hopefully later on, the posts will be a lot easier to read and will resembe opinions rather than essays to allow anyone who reads to comment without having to read further into the subject if they don’t want to.
Medical Model of Disability
The medical model of disability is one that is primarily concerned with the justification of disability. It sees disability purely as a problem of the individual, without any discrimination between the impairment faced and the disability itself. “Any economic or social deprivation encountered by disabled people was located within the individual and their impairment.” (Swain et al., 2003)
To put it simply, a disabled person is seen as faulty and in need of fixing or curing. Disabled people are by definition then dependent on others to help them and decide on care/treatment for their disability. Disability is a tragedy, and focusses on what a person cannot do. This results in segregation of disability, giving anyone perceived as different a label due to the fixation of “normality” by society (referring to people by their disability… “he’s a Down’s baby,” “she’s the dwarf”), lack of individual respect and the ignorance of cultural, social and institutional barriers that disabled people face in trying to lead their own independent lives.
Paul Hunt wrote an essay in 1966 arguing that due to society’s treatment of disabled people in the past and society’s high regard for the “normal,” disabled people have felt themselves to be “unfortunate, useless, different, oppressed and sick,” and although this may not be how disabled people actually see themselves, due to the constraints placed upon them, this is how they have been forced to view themselves.
“Unfortunate” because they haven’t had the opportunity to marry, have children and contribute to earning their own money and independence; “Useless” due to their inability to contribute to the economic wealth of society, relying instead on charity and feeling of less worth than the “breadwinner;” Feeling part of a minority and singled out as “different” due to their physical disability against the “stares of the curious;” An overwhelming feeling of “oppression” due to society not allowing the disabled person to challenge its view of them, either through lack of education or through lack of independence; “Sick” compared to people who are relatively healthy, and who’s mortality is challenged by the disabled.
In 1976 The Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) produced a document due to the Guardian’s printing of a letter by Paul Hunt in 1972 calling for the formation of a group that would allow the views of disabled people themselves to be heard. This led to the creation of the Social Model Of Disability. (Shakespeare, 2006)
- Hunt, P. (1966). A Critical Condition. [online]. Available at http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm [Accessed 07.06.12]
- Shakespeare, T. (2006). Looking Back, Moving Forward. [Online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/columnists/tom/250906_index.shtml [Accessed 12.12.06]
- Swain, J., French, S. and Cameron, C. (2003). Controversial Issues in a Disabling Society. Buckingham: OU Press