The Medical Model of disability has been the dominant paradigm of conceptualization disability: “For over a hundred years, disability has been defined in predominantly medical terms as a chronic functional incapacity whose consequence was functional limitations assumed to result from physical or mental impairment.” This approach to understanding disability tends to be more descriptive and normative by seeking out to define what is normal and what is not. Consequently, strict normative categories abound, namely the “disabled” and “abled” dichotomy. This model views the physiological difference itself as the problem, where the individual is the focus of that said disability.
Thus, given that disability is viewed as a physiological condition, disabled individuals are viewed as needing intervention or assistance to counteract the effects of the disability. Moreover, this model views disability as an individual problem and that suitable intervention is usually one of two things: (1) a rehabilitation effort (to overcome the negative effects of the disability); or (2) scientific efforts to find a cure. In both instances, the emphasis is on the individual and how her condition can be overcome. In fact, in the context of legal accommodations under the American Disabilities Act, the notion of disability as a physiological condition is precisely what enables the conclusion that accommodations (which is what is legally required) is what is necessary. Moreover, the medical model encourages the view that disability rights (legally speaking) are different or special from standard rights, like a sort of charity for biologically feeble individuals. In sum, a person’s disability is his own personal misfortune that r...
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... of disability starkly contrasts how other forms of discrimination are typically viewed in society. For example, most individuals believe that the social ailments surrounding racial and ethnic minorities, women, and sexual minorities stem not from any sort of physiological abnormality, but rather from societal environments that breed discrimination. Thus, discrimination against these minority groups are often viewed as unreasonable. Moreover, attempts at justifying the discrimination against any of these groups is deemed socially deplorable. In contrast, many people seem to view discrimination against disabled individuals as not only rational, but also morally acceptable (in the RGT context specifically). The result, therefore, is that individuals who strive against discrimination in other contexts may be apt to justify discrimination against disabled persons.
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