Essentially, the Medical Model of Disability locates disability as being a medical condition experienced by the individual affected, and disabled people are often referred to and defined by their impairments e.g. 'the blind', 'the deaf', 'epileptics', 'schizophrenics' etc. People with the same condition are expected to share the same experiences of their impairment and to have the same access needs, rather than each individual having different experiences and needs (as is actually the case).
The Social Model of Disability, on the other hand, locates disability as being socially constructed through the creation of artificial attitudinal, organisational and environmental barriers. Impairment is regarded as being a normal part of the human condition, with everyone experiencing impairment differently and having different access needs. Life is accepted as including negative experiences, and impairment may be - but is not necessarily - one of them. Disabled people are defined as being people who experience the unnecessary barriers created by society within their daily life.
Crucially, when using the Medical Model the individual disabled person is viewed as causing many problems for society. When using the Social Model, society is viewed as causing many problems for disabled people.
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© Ju Gosling aka ju90 2008
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