Medical and Social Models of Disability Essay

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It could be said that in modern industrial society, Disability is still widely regarded as tragic individual failing, in which its “victims” require care, sympathy and medical diagnosis. Whilst medical science has served to improve and enhance the quality of life for many it could be argued that it has also led to further segregation and separation of many individuals. This could be caused by its insistence on labelling one as “sick”, “abnormal” or “mental”. Consequently, what this act of labelling and diagnosing has done, is enforce the societal view that a disability is an abnormality that requires treatment and that any of its “victims” should do what is required to be able to function in society as an able bodied individual.
The social model of disability argues against this and instead holds the view that it is society, not the individual that needs to change and do what is required, so that everyone can function in society. As this statement from the Green Party Manifesto claims that “Disability is a social phenomenon” and “While many individuals have physical or sensory impairments or learning difficulties or are living with mental health problems, it is the way society responds to these which creates disability” (2010). The aim of this paper is to consider the strength of this view. With the help of modern and contemporary sociological theory surrounding disability and health it will look at both the medical and social models of disability with the aim to conclude whether disability is a problem that needs to be addressed by medical professionals alone or by society as a whole.
The medical model defines disability as “any restriction or lack of ability (resulting from an impairment of an individual) to perform an activi...

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...) Ideas about Illness: An Intellectual and Political History of Medical Sociology. Macmillan: Basingstoke
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ONS (2011) The Office for National Statistics: 2011 Census - Population and Household Estimates for England and Wales, March 2011 [Accessed 28/01/14]
Scotch, R (1989) From Good Will to Civil Rights: Transforming federal disability policy. Temple University Press: Philadelphia
Shakespeare, T (2006) Disability: Rights and Wrongs. Routledge: NewYork
Shakespeare, T (2013) “The Social Model of Disability” in The Disabilty Studies Reader Ed Davis, L D. Routledge: New York
WHO (1981) World Health organisation: Models of Disability. [accessed 29/01/14]

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