What are the Medical Model of Disability & The Social Model of Disability?

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There are two models of disability; the medical model and the social model. Let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the two:

The Medical Model of Disability

The World Health Organisation (WHO) introduced the medical model of disability which was developed by medical professionals in their framework for working with disability and publishing the “International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps” in 1980.

The medical model of disability focuses on the condition of the person, its management and treatment.

The Social Model of Disability

“In our view it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society.” claimed the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS), in 1979.

Since 1980 the social model of disability was introduced to the UK and it identifies negative attitudes, exclusion by society and systemic barriers.


Applying the Medical and the Social Model is Key for a Diverse Society…  Crayons Diversity Naomi Mc Laughlan

It is important to use both models, because it is obviously necessary to get a diagnosis from a medical professional. Then to draw a plan, on how to manage the disability with operations, drugs, aids or any other form of treatment to help the person.

The social model helps the disabled person to cope with his or her disability in his or her social life, a blind child, for example, benefits from an audio recording of his or her favourite program or a book written in braille. In this case the child would not feel left out and could converse with his peers about the same program.

Or a young person in a wheelchair who enjoys playing ball games could be encouraged to join a special basketball group or a mixed group of children with and without wheelchairs. This would take the focus away from the disability to having fun like everyone else.

The more adaptions are made the less a disabled person is confronted with his or her disability. Town centres which are laid out in a way that everyone has access to shops and parks makes the lives of everyone easier. This includes nearby parking, wide paths without obstacles like boards etc., lifts, ramps, and wide doors to name a few.

My youngest daughter went to a nursery which includes disabled children, and as she is autistic and has a rare chromosome disorder, I was glad that inclusion is offered in our city. The nursery adapted its premises for all kinds of special needs, for example all staff members are able to sign (Makaton), and they use “Now-Then” boards and Pegs, which is essential to communicate with children on the autistic spectrum.

From my experience I can say that it works really well, because the mix of ‘abled children’ in a nursery, school or leisure setting provide great role models for the’ less abled’ ones. While both groups of children learn from each other in so many ways, including emphasising the needs and wants of each other, practising kindness and building friendships with a diverse group of peers.

The inclusion of disabled people which is already practiced by nurseries, schools and employers should be emphasized and wider practiced, because the higher the level of incorporation of the two models, the medical and the social model, the better it is for our society overall.

Let me know what you think in the comment section below!

Please Like & Share,

All the Best,

Naomi xxx

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