Understanding Medical And Social Model Of Disability Social Work Essay


The understanding of disability is still unknown to many people. The way people see disability have different meaning to the way society see disability. Different cultures have different meaning to the term disability. There are some people, who consider people with disability are paying for their sins. It is believed that they must have done something bad in their pervious life and are paying for it in this life. Because of some cultural differences, they mostly are labelled to be look through negative perspectives.

Swain (2003) says that what term societies are meant to use? ‘Disable People’ or ‘People With Disability.’ Using the term ‘People with Disability’ is considered more human and more positive compared to ‘Disabled People’ it makes people feel part of the society instead of being left out.

To make people with disability feel more part of the society the government bought laws so that everyone was equally, the DDA Act 1995. However it got change in 2005.

The (Disability Discrimination Act) DDA Act 2005 states that ‘as having a disability for the purposes of the DDA where they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’ (Department of work pension 2005)

Yet what can be considered ‘day to day activities?’ It is not clearly defined correctly as some people with disability could use some part of their body where there are some who can not. Because of this people with disability are often labelled and left out.

Calling someone handicap or dump or deaf and dump is being labelled. Being labelled is quite negative towards people with disability. It makes them feel that the society does not consider them equal. This discourages some people to make friends or go out into the society.

Shakespeare (2006) explains that labelling is viewed negatively in the disability communities. It is because, people with disability do not want to be labelled and ask other people for help. Some people do not want to ask for charity.

If people do need help, how do they come across it? Do they have to provide evidence that they are disabled?

Which moves to the medical and the social model of disability?

The medical model of disability is sees the disabled person as the problem. They are meant to adapt and fit in to the world and if it’s not possible then they are shut away. (Rieser 2002)

The social model of disability the social model is a concept which recognises that some individuals have physical or psychological differences which can affect their ability to function in societies. (Brain.HE 2006)

The medical model is used for those that need help. It is with the medical model that people can get support. If individual needs help from the government and need money or any other support they need to go through a series of process where they would have to under assessment to see if they can qualify for help.

The medical model is used through examination or testing or by professional expert which will then give evidence if you have a disability or not.

The advantage of the medical model is that it can provide support to those that need help. It can provide finical support and can also provide information to those individual that need operation and can also provide guidance to a cure.

The medical model can also share understanding towards others as it can make other people understand the similar dilemmas that they may be facing as well. However, a cure was something that could help in understanding that the medical model and gave people the belief that their disability would go away.

Yet like any other model that have been discovered the medical model has its fault. For example in the medical model the individual is the one that has an abnormality. That the disability is in the person and the only way is to cure it.

Another problem with the medical model was that the environment was ignored. If someone had an accident, it was considered a tragedy yet if someone had been born with impairment, it was considered a disability.

The medical model also considered that they are independent on themselves and will always need help from others or charities. It made them look pitiful and helpless.

However, the problem was that the medical model is still dominated because, to know what is happening to an individual, they need to be asses.

It was also used more as a critique than by the medical professional themselves. It is the job of the professional to find a cure and to help those that need help.

Because of the medical model, people began to think differently and the social model comes into process.

The social model of disability was the ‘big idea’, in the British disability movement. (Shakespeare and Watson 2003 p3

It was a starting point to those who felt that the medical model did not help. It gave those individual the point where they did not need to depend on others.

The social model of disability was there to help people with disability feel part of the community. With the model, it can overcome barriers such as labelling and any other barriers that society can come up with. (Crow 1996) pp66) states that the social model was a means to escape.

It was meant for those individuals who wanted to overcome any issues regarding disability. The people see that being disabled is not a bad thing. That you can do many day to day activity like any other person. It makes a better social relationship with the society.

However, like the medical model, the social model had its fault. Where an individual needs help, now believes that the social model is making them feel that they are too being ‘pitied’ that they can not do anything by themselves.

The model is important because it enables the identification of a political strategy and its main focus was to try and remove barriers, which helped, because the medical model did not try to remove barriers such as external ones.

The social model also focuses on the influence of the family, the income, the education and any other factors as well.

However, there is now a shift. Once where the medical model was dominated and was the answer to most questions has transfer to the social model. But, here lies the problem as well. The social model is now considered outdate as well.

Union of the Physical Impairment Against Segregation (UPIAS) called for an alternative model of disability.

Mark, 1999 said that the social model argues that the key issues are that the individual must have a ‘positive identity’ as disabled. With this it showed that unless you have a label, you can not be given help. This shows that, even though the social model is there to help, the medical model still dominates and now the social model is outdated because people with disability do not want to be looked at as needy.

Tom Shakespeare is one of those who believe that the social model is an outdated and that need much more updating. In the journal ‘research in social science and disability’ he wrote an article dedicating that the social model of disability is now outdated. He explains that the model needs to be improved from new direction. It needs to be improving as social cultures are need and different views are need as its more focus on the British people and needs to be view from different culture as well.

The social model of disability is also being criticised by Grabe and Peters (2004) who explain that the social model needs to recognise the significance of bodily experience. That it is not easy to distinguish between people with disability and people without disability. They also explain that the model does not cover everything. The model is there to make a person feel important about them and that they would feel that the model is helping them.

Oliver 2009 (p49) criticise that, there are five important things have come from the social model of disability. The first one is that the model does not consider the realities of impairment, as the model is based on misunderstanding because the model is not based on personal experience.

The second is that the pain of impairment and disability is ignored by the society. The third is that it is unable to incorporate social sates and social division. The fourth is issues of otherness. This is where it is viewed from other person’s perspective, and the final is that the social model is inadequate.

This shows that the social model of disability now is outdated as there are many problems that model is facing.

In conclusion, it is shown that the social model is outdated and the society needs a new view. But there lies that problem. Because where the social model was a new thing now has become outdated, what will happen when there might be a third model. Will they consider the new model outdates when its time will come. It seems to be going in a cycle.

The social model of disability has its fault like the medical model disability. However, unlike the social model the medical model of disability, it is still dominated despite the trend towards the social model, the medical model is needed for those individual who need support finically and support from the government. Yet at the same time they do not want to become dependent on the government as well. This also causes the issues, as the social model of disability is there to support those individual who need to feel that they want to do something for their lives and not just depend on others.

Author such as Liz Crow, Tom Shakespeare and Michael Oliver, all believe that the social model of disability is outdated. Their factors are that the social model of disability does not cover all factors that are necessary and needed. They believe that the model needs to be looked at a new angle or modify or even bring in a new model, as the current one is giving problems.

If the society does bring in a new model will it not criticize the model as well? As all it seems that people do is criticise that this model is not good or that model is not good.

True the social model of disability needs a new change, but despite the model being outdated, the model still helps those individual feel better about them. The model has given encouragement to those individual with disability, the ability to give something back to the society.

The medical model of disability is there for the medical professional as guidance in attempt to find a cure as the medical model of disability gives facts only and the social model is there for support and moral and encouragement and is effective to those people with disability.

There will be some individual that will complain about their situation compared to others, and will say that they need extra support, but what these people need to understand is that they need to stand up and become braver. True, there have been cases where individuals with disability have had hardships and have had no support, but what they need to understand is that the models do not run their lives; they merely are guidance on how they should live morally and finically.

The medical model of disability gives facts and the social model gives support. So despite the social model being outdated, the social model of disability makes it feel to those individual people that they have support that they need, thus the model is still affective.

Word Count: 2000




Approximately 250 words