The Fine Line Between Disabled and Abled
Published: 2016-06-27 - Updated: 2022-06-29
Author: Keystone Human Services | Contact: keystonehumanservices.org
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Disability Information Publications
Synopsis: Article examines the fine line between abled and the reality of the ease of becoming disabled. We enter the world almost entirely disabled, and many of us will become so again in our later years. The medical model of disability way of thinking is a firmly embedded notion that is now being challenged by those fighting for the cause of disability rights.
- Medical Model of Disability
- The medical model of disability, or medical model, is based on a biomedical perception of disability. This model links a disability diagnosis to an individual's physical body. The model supposes that this disability may reduce the individual's quality of life and aims to diminish or correct this disability with medical intervention. The Medical Model views disability as a defect within the individual. Disability is an aberration compared to typical traits and characteristics. To have a high quality of life, these defects must be cured, fixed, or eliminated. Health care and social service professionals have the sole power to correct or modify these conditions.
One of the challenges the disability rights movement has put before us all is to see disability in the context of how society has created a somewhat arbitrary "line" between 'disabled' and 'abled.'
We have been urged to see disability as a natural part of the human condition, with all people falling along with that continuum at different places throughout life. For example, we enter the world almost completely disabled, and many of us will become so again in our later years - (Tips for the Newly Disabled).
In between, we all experience varying degrees of ability and disability, which enters into a simple discussion of how much support we need to negotiate the world at a given time.
To me, this gives a more satisfying way to think about disability and ability and also helps undo some medical model formation that trains professionals (and everyone) that there are two distinct types of people - 'us' (the helpers and so-called non-disabled people) and 'them' (the disabled people themselves).
It was an uncomfortable way to structure my thinking initially, but over time I have come to appreciate it a great deal. It is much more nuanced and real to me.
Fitting this into our practice as professionals are very hard, though, because much of the traditional thinking around disability is at odds with this in significant ways. It seems many professionals find it threatening.
Medical model thinking is a strongly embedded notion that is just now being challenged by those fighting for the cause of disability rights. As has happened in many other places, this strong advocacy is led by people with physical disabilities and informed by historical civil rights movements worldwide.
There is a long way to travel for people with developmental and psycho-social disabilities, as there is for many other groups of marginalized and oppressed people. Mindsets run deep, but the conversation is moving, and the lines that separate people are a little less clear.
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