Friday, February 4, 2011

Medical vs Social Models of Disability

I was reading the blog Accessibility NZ this morning and stubled across this great little chart that compares the social and medical model of disability. A lot of the Alberta Education Setting the Direction material refers to the concept of moving away from a "Medical Model of Disability" but there seems to be little definition in this material around what this means. I think most people do have an idea of what it means but finding a nice simple chart that explains it is always kind of a bonus. Here is the chart:

Comparing Social and Medical Models of Disability
Medical ModelSocial Model
Disability is abnormal. Disability is different.
Having a disability is negative. Having a disability is neutral.
Disability is found in the individual. Disability is found in the interaction between the individual and a non-accessible society.
Cure or the individual's normalisation is the way to fix the "problem" Change to society is the way to fix the "problem".
The person who can fix the "problem" is the professional (doctor, social worker, etc). The individual, an advocate, or anyone who affects the arrangements between the individual and society can fix the "problem"

As I looked at this chart it struck me that the second column almost creates a type of "continuum of change towards inclusive education".  It seems that you almost need to believe the first line before the second line is believable and so on all the way down the chart.  I know many people completely buy in to the first couple of statements but when it comes to the later ones (the ones that require work) there are less people.  The idea gives me hope though becuase it shows me that there has been movement and hope is something I need today because I'm feeling a bit beat down by some of the happenings of this week.  There are days where I question if what I'm after is just too big.  But then I wake up the next morning with a restored faith in humanity and know that we have the potential to get there.

I was reading another great blog post this week ( and particularly love this line: "But I focused on the message that the missiong of the school was to educate him in a way that was effective as opposed to convenient."  This statement really seems to be at the heart of it for me.  Buying in to a medical model of disability (or of schooling really) makes it about convenience.  Buying in to a social model of disability (or of schooling really) makes it about what is effective and therefore makes it about learning.  It is much harder to think in terms of what is effective but it would come closer to ensuring that the focus of schools was learning!

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