Definitions of disability

An attempt, based on OU recommended sources to identify a number of definitions of disability and comment on them.  Sources used Martin Cooper blog (2012), and Seale E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education (2014). [OU 3.1]

The Medical Model.  A deficit model based on identification and classification of impairments,  and by inference an identification of the disabled person by that impairment.  It is often used in relation to regulations, laws, assessments relating to entitlements (for instance to benefits/support).

The Social Model.  The social model of disability is a result of society’s action, or inaction, (which may be physical, organisational and attitudinal) that prevents disabled users from accessing a service or facility in an equal way, or at all.

The Post Social Model.  This model argues that everybody experiences their own limitations and ‘impairments’ – the difference is in degree and effect.

The Functional Model.  A model of disability as it applies in particular situations – for instance, in relation to web access it is accessibility/disability that facilitates or prevents people from achieving full interaction  (whether directly or via accessibility software).

The Administrative Model.  The administrative model is a use of the medical view grouping and identifying persons by impairment, in order that a practical course can be determined, for instance in the provision of support to students.

There is a further model listed by Seale: the Charity Model.  This is described as a model which portrays disability and disabled persons by reference to the tragedy of their situation. However, as well as being the most archaic, it also does not operate as suitable a frame of reference from which to consider future action to improve accessibility.

Additional Note: having discounted the Charity model as archaic and unlikely to be of use in the modern age, as a framework for discussing or addressing disability, I then later read the Chinese law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities [OU5.2] and it seems that both the medical and the charity models (representing a view of disability) are alive and well.

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