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Disability awareness > Module 1 > Page 5

 

Context and theories of disability

The medical model

' I propose that we name the mid-twentieth century ‘The Age of Disabling Professions', as the age when people had ‘problems', experts had ‘solutions' and scientists measured imponderables such as ‘abilities' and ‘needs' . (Illich, 1977:11)


Medicine and its allied professions have played an increasingly important role in defining and regulating disability. The Medical Model essentially sees the person with a disability as the problem. The emphasis is very much on dependence with the focus on the person's disability rather than on his or her abilities and needs. Some of the assumption made by this model are that people with disabilities:

  • Need to be cured
  • Are sick or incapacitated
  • Need institutional care
  • Are not ‘normal'

The medical model fails to look at the causes of exclusion or at the reasons for social barriers but rather attempts to ‘fit' the person with a disability into existing systems. Professional assessments determine who is disabled and therefore who gets access to education, employment and services. Because people with disabilities are not considered to be ‘normal' they are generally segregated within specialised services rather than participating in society like other citizens.

Until recently, the medical model of disability was the major influence in directing policy and the provision of services for people with disabilities in Ireland.

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