Disability is one of the concepts that have been described variously by different people. The definition of disability varies from one person to another depending on the contexts and circumstances surrounding the metrics used in defining the term. While this is true, the metrics used in defining disability are the same – at least in the contemporary world. Worth mentioning is the reality that many scholars such as Bell (2009) believe that there is a significant difference between disability it was explained in the 80s and the way it is defined today. While one may wonder what difference there is between the two definitions, it is critical to mention that the main difference lies in the reality that back in the eighties, the disability movement had not achieved much. On the contrary, it was only trying to gain acceptance among the societies of the developed world. Today, Shakespeare and Corker (2002), notes that disability has been highly institutionalized and has indeed been given prominence in social circles. This paper endeavors to give a definition of the term disability, as is defined by the social and the medical models.
Disability is a state of being somewhat challenged – physically or mentally – such that the capacities of an individual cannot be said to be averagely capable of performing the activities a normal person is expected to. This definition borrows from the scientific school of thought. According to the scientific school, which is commonly referred to as the medical model of disability, disability is more physiological than mental or psychological. Contrary to the definition given by the medical school of thought, the social school argues that disability is a state of being marginalized by some physio-pathological insufficiencies. Apparently, looking at the concept from the modern point of view, the social view of disability is more applicable (Barnes and Mercer, 2009). In point of fact, disability is being considered as a social phenomenon more than a medical condition. This can be explained through the extents to which institutions are embracing concern for the concept of disability.
The main reason why disability is considered more psychological and social than physiological is because currently, disability is highly institutionalized. The institutionalization of disability is one of the most conspicuous efforts aimed at bringing equality to the people that are considered disabled. Institutionalization of the concept begins with the fact that the law is remarkably espousing laws offering protection to the disabled people (Shakespeare and Corker, 2002). Research indicates that, however little the section 504 is known, it is one of the most significant constitutional efforts aimed at protecting the rights of the disabled people. According to Bell (2009), the law is coming up with clauses favoring the disabled people’s capacity to access the same opportunities as the normal people. The air carrier assistance Act of 1986 is among the earliest constitutional clauses protecting the disabled persons.
Barnes and Mercer (2009) argue that the period before the concept of disability was institutionalized, stigmatization was on the high. Stigmatization comes as a result of extreme marginalization of the disabled people. The main reason why disability is considered a social phenomenon is because is because it led to many modifications in many institutional programs and facility. Today, there are programs being offered to serve the disable. For instance, the courses designed for teachers include some units dedicated to the disabled students. In addition to such units, there are exclusive programs meant for the disabled. For instance, there are degree courses offered by universities to serve the deaf, blind and so on. Such courses, referred to as special education courses are quite useful as they enable the disabled understand that which the normal ones undertake (Barnes and Mercer, 2009).
Disability movement has evolved over the years, and, currently, it is in its second phase. The first phase of the disability movement concerned itself with coming up with the quest for the rights of the disabled, which could enable the disabled to access equal opportunities. Speaking of equal opportunities, the disabled were, in the first phase, struggling to be considered as part of the community through social inclusion programs. Inclusion of the disabled emphasized the ability to be employed in equal capacity ceteris paribus (Barnes and Mercer, 2009). The evolution of the disability movement has been quite evident in the sense that the law has given various provisions to cater for the physically handicapped. Today, buildings are designed in such a way that the wheel chaired people can access all parts of the building, thanks to the laws of the modern constitutions. Shakespeare and Corker (2002) argue that the second phase of the disability movement is the one concerned with establishing concerned with collective identity. The disability culture is one of the social efforts considered amorphous since it has not been clearly defined by the social structures of many countries. Even so, disability is a social phenomenon, contrary to the common misconception that it is a medical condition. Considering disability a medical condition causes stigmatization.
Barnes, C., & Mercer, G. (2009). Exploring disability. Polity
Bell, C. M. (2009). Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions. Münster: LIT.
Shakespeare, T., & Corker, M. (2002). Disability/postmodernity: Embodying disability theory. New York: Continuum.