Saturday, January 24, 2015

What Does Disability Really Mean?

The most common model of disability used is the medical model of disability. The medical model views disability as a deficit, and says that disabilities should be cured or disabled people should pass as normal. Also, it focuses on the individual only. The medical model often results in scientific studies that focus on coming up with a cure (thanks a lot, Autism Speaks) and shoehorns differences observed as deficits (How is that objective? Shouldn't scientific studies minimize bias?). It also can lead to pressure to have the person seem normal, which can lead to problems as disabled people are different in such a way that the normal way of functioning does not help them accomplish a task.

This model can be easily accepted if a person decides to focus on only the disabled individuals or sees differences as being bad. However, if a person looks at the society around them and withholds their typical judgements, they may realize that the social model of disability is more accurate.

The social model is neutral and focuses not just on disabled individuals, but also on the society they live in. Also, it says that disabled people should be accommodated rather than be cured or be encouraged to pass as normal.

Think of it like biological adaptations. They do not help or harm an organism in and of themselves, but the same adaptation can help or hinder an organism in different environments. For example, a species of animal may have a digestive system specialized to process food found in their habitat. However, if it gets whisked out of its natural habitat and into one that has different kinds of food available, it may have trouble digesting it. The cure approach would be to surgically alter its digestive system to process the foods found in its new habitat, which is invasive and may lead to the death of the animal. The "pass as normal" approach would be to have it eat the food found in the new habitat. However, this leads to the animal not being able to function due to improper nutrition. On the other hand, the accommodation approach would be to get the food from its old habitat and let the animal eat it, and to be cooperative when the animal turns its nose up at food that gives it digestive problems. This leads to the animal being able to thrive.

Likewise, abusive treatments used on neurodivergent individuals may result in damage to their body or even death. Making them pass as normal may make them unable to function. However, encouraging them to do things in their natural way and to figure out what works for them and what doesn't will lead to them being able to thrive.