Sanna Kramsi - I would if I could a guide to web accessibility

Medical model

The medical model defines disability as a medical condition or impairment that is located within the individual. Disability is seen as a deviation from the norm or a deficiency in the individual's physical, mental, or sensory functioning. Disability is caused by medically-diagnosed genetic disorders, disease, trauma, or other health conditions. The medical model aims to correct or fix the disability with medical intervention.

The medical model tends to view disability as an individual problem that needs to be fixed. It doesn't consider the broader social, environmental, and systemic factors that may contribute to disability. These factors include:

  • social attitudes,
  • inaccessible environments,
  • discrimination, and
  • lack of accommodations.

It often places the responsibility on the individual with a disability to adapt to the non-disabled world. It doesn't address societal barriers that limit the individual's full participation and inclusion in society.

The legal definition of disabilities often relies on the assumptions of the medical model. A person is legally designated as "disabled" if the person meets a certain threshold of biological impairment. This legal/medical definition is often used as a way to decide whether:

  • a person should receive certain government financial benefits, or
  • an employer is required to provide disability accommodations to the person in the workplace, or
  • a student is eligible for disability accommodations at school or in the university.

Critics of the medical model argue that it can be reductionist, stigmatizing, and disempowering for individuals with disabilities. It can perpetuate a sense of dependence on medical interventions and foster a "fix-it" mentality, rather than promoting the rights, autonomy, and inclusion of individuals with disabilities.

The medical model of disability is not used as much anymore because people have realized that disabilities are not just about a person's body or mind, but also about how society treats them. We now use the social model of disability, which says that society needs to change to include and accommodate people with disabilities.

Strengths of the Medical Model

The medical model acknowledges that there is a biological condition that puts an individual at a disadvantage compared to the majority of the population.

The medical model emphasizes the diagnosis and treatment of specific impairments or conditions associated with disability. It can provide a framework for understanding the medical aspects of disability and guide interventions such as surgeries, medications, and rehabilitation therapies that can improve the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities.
   
The medical model relies on the expertise of healthcare professionals who have specialized knowledge and training in diagnosing and treating medical conditions. It can provide a structured approach for healthcare professionals to assess, manage, and provide care for individuals with disabilities.
   
The medical model has contributed to significant advancements in biomedical research, leading to innovations in medical technologies, interventions, and treatments that have improved the quality of life and outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

Weaknesses of the Medical Model

The medical model focuses exclusively on the biology of the person, which means that it overlooks the impact of design decisions in our social environment. It can overlook social, environmental, and systemic barriers that contribute to disability, such as discrimination, prejudice, inaccessible environments, and lack of accommodations. It may not promote changes in policies, practices, and attitudes to create more inclusive and accessible societies.

The medical model assigns disability as a characteristic of an individual person. This can label and stigmatize the person for being different. They might even get the feeling they are less valued. All this is likely to have a psychological impact on the person.

People not fitting the medical definitions that are used to determine who gets certain benefits, will likely be denied those benefits. These definitions might be too exclusive for many people who would need the benefits.

And if people are required to prove that they have a qualifying disability, this adds a level of bureaucracy to their lives. It can be both time-consuming and dehumanizing to have to constantly prove one's disability.

The medical model may not adequately address social, environmental, and systemic barriers that contribute to disability, such as discrimination, prejudice, inaccessible environments, and lack of accommodations. It may not promote changes in policies, practices, and attitudes to create more inclusive and accessible societies.

The medical model may not fully recognize the autonomy, rights, and agency of individuals with disabilities. It can disempower individuals with disabilities by limiting their choices, decisions, and control over their own lives, and may not fully consider their preferences, values, and experiences.

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