The Three Models of Disability

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The models of disability are the various tools that can be used to explain impairment that provides a basis upon which the needs of people with disability can be addressed. Mainly, these models enable individuals to get a better understanding of the issues surrounding disability. Additionally, they give insights into the prejudices, attitudes, and conceptions of disability and how people associate with the disabled. These models are pegged on two fundamental principles. First is that the disabled are almost wholly dependent on the society; as s a result, they are susceptible to discrimination, paternalism, and segregation (Baynton, 2013). Secondly, the impaired are like clients of the society. As such, they have to contain what the society has to offer to them. The consequential effect of this is that they are empowered and their rights protected so that they can be able to withstand the misgivings in the society. As such, this paper describes three models of disability, how they view disability, and possible solutions to disability which are imperative to the society.

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Medical Model

This model presupposes that disability is a consequence of the physical or mental impairments of individuals. According to Biklen (1988), disability has no relation with the social or the geographical environment of an individual. In the view of Barton (1992), the definition of disability is any physical or mental impairment as contained in the World Health Organizations (WHO's) definitions. Specifically, according to the medical model, disability can also be equated to impairment and handicap.

The medical model states that the disability should be treated through medical attention. However, this solution is not always necessary as the disabled are not necessarily sick; therefore, don not require any remedial treatment (Barton, 1992). In that regard, other ways of treating disability in the medical model have been proposed. They include; rehabilitation, income maintenance programs, provision of aids, and equipment for the disabled.

Social Constructionist Models

The model holds that disability is what the society constructs based on their expectations. For instance, according to Biklen (1988), the moral behaviour of individuals shows whether they are disabled or not. There are various social expectations of health that the society has, and when an individual does not show those standards, he is considered disabled. This model contradicts the medical model, which sees disability as only some form of physical and mental impairment. Indeed, in the opinion of Ferri & Connor (2010), this model is based on the perception that individuals should possess a certain level of morality, failure to which, they will be categorized as disabled.

This model is offers special education to such individuals as the main solution to such perceptions. Notably, the purpose of the special education is to restore the disabled to the moral community. Specifically, special education enables the disabled to find a way of changing their behaviours and conforming to the social constructs (Ferri & Connor, 2010). The model locates knowledge about disability from the society and individual families who feel that their children have certain moral deficiencies that are impairing their ability to live cohesively with others in the society. Additionally, schools will also identify students who have special cases of moral breaches and recommend them for special education.

Social-Political Models

The model defines disability as the behaviours, attitudes, and barriers that prevent people from fully participating in the society. This model attributes disability to the various economic, legal, and political barriers that the society has put and which are impediments to the full participation of the impaired to the societal issues (Baynton, 2013). This theory, just like the medical theory, does not rule out the possibility of physical and mental impairments contributing to disability; however, it stresses that these reasons are mere excuses by both the members of society and governments instead of handling the key causes of disabilities.

The model proposes that disabilities can be solved through changes in policies. In this regard, the political actors should ensure that they put forth regulations that will help the disabled to be full participants of the societal agendas. Additionally, according to Baynton, (2013), the initiation of programs, which aid in altering and eventually eliminating the environmental barriers and changing societal attitudes are also solutions proposed by the model.

In conclusion, the three models are all in agreements that disability has an element of physical and mental illness; however, they disagree whether this is the primary cause of disability. While the medical model state that disability has a medical aspect, the social model opines that disability is much more than the view of the medical model. On the other hand, the social construction model opines that disability is a creation of the society; therefore, it is a social issue. Additionally, the socio-political model is akin to the social model as they both agree that disability is a social issue as opposed to an individual one.


Barton, L. (1992). Disability and the Necessity for a Socio-Political Perspective. Monograph# 51.Baynton, D. C. (2013). Disability and the justification of inequality in American history. The disability studies reader, 17, 33-57.

Biklen, D. (1988). The myth of clinical judgment. Journal of Social Issues.Ferri, B. A., & Connor, D. J. (2010). I was the special ed. girl: urban workingclass young women of colour. Gender and Education, 22(1), 105-121.

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