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Research in social science and disability.

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❶Healing Without Hurting Jennifer Kozek.

REIS in February 2018

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Social Science Research

People with physical and psychological impairments have been represented in many ways by western society over the years — as holy, special, and unfortunately also in many less respectful ways. Several models have characterised the history of disability in the West: These models or constructions of disability have had a powerful influence on setting the parameters for how people with impairments are treated by society. The most dominant of these models has been the medical model.

This model arose along side and was fully supported by ground breaking advances in science and medicine. This gave the power and influence to the medical professions to dictate the lives of individuals with impairments.

According to the medical model the problem of disability is located within the individual, i. The model places individuals into medical categories for medical convenience. Doctors distribute categorical labels which carry social stigma, and these Doctors tend to be the adjudicators for resources to assist people with impairments.

The medical professions own the knowledge and have the power to oppress people. However the medical model was far from perfect and before long it came under scrutiny by many disabled rights activist groups. The result of these protests was the introduction of a new model designed to overcome the oppression felt by many a person with disabilities. This model was the social model or human-rights model.

The social model opposed the oppression inflicted by the medical model, shifting the blame of disability from the individuals with impairments to an unfair, and oppressive society.

With the support of many human rights groups, some of the barriers of disability enforced by the medical model have started to come down. However there is still a long way to go. The social model of disability is not a traditional diagrammatic model like many psychological and sociological models, but a progressive political concept that opposes the medical model commonly used in the health professions.

The Social model of disability makes an important distinction between the terms impairment and disability. This distinction is embedded in social constructionism a philosophical foundation of the social model , which states that these terms differ in that impairment exists in the real physical world and disability is a social construct that exists in a realm beyond language within a complex organisation of shared meanings, discourses and limitations imposed by the environment at a particular time and place.

The social model is a concept which recognises that some individuals have physical or psychological differences which can affect their ability to function in society. However the social model suggests it is society that causes the individual with these physical or psychological differences to be disabled. In other words individuals with impairments are not disabled by their impairments but by the barriers that exist in society which do not take into account their needs.

These barriers can be divided into three categories: The environment disables impaired people by not being accessible enough for them to move, function and communicate as effectively as people without impairments. A great deal of the environment is designed by non-impaired people, for non-impaired living.

A wheel chair friendly building would probably include ramps, lifts, wide door ways and corridors and accessible fittings such as light switches, and motorised doors etc.

Whilst these modifications benefit people who use wheel chairs they can also benefit non-impaired people. Economically, society does not provide the same opportunities to people with impairments.

At school, lessons are designed for non-impaired people, using environments and teaching methods that are not suitable for some individuals with impairments. For example a person with dyslexia has a learning disability only in a lesson structured for non-dyslexic students. If the lesson is taught in a way that suits people with dyslexia then they will not have a disability. The workplace and traditional job roles often do not suit people with impairments.

Places of work are often unnecessarily inaccessible and people with impairments are often paid less then people without impairments. Culturally, society lets impaired people down because of the prejudiced views and negative shared attitudes of the non-impaired community towards people with physical and psychological impairments.

Prejudices are evident in language and the terminology used to describe people with impairments, much of which is derived from medical labels. People are more than just a label describing a negative attribute, and the stigma attached to those labels means that people with impairments are held back from achieving what they want to achieve. The mass media is also responsible for many of the shared negative meanings and discourses which create stereotypes and prejudices.

How does the Social Model of Disability apply to learning difficulties in higher education? The social model of disability can be applied to neurodiversity in higher education.

People with learning differences are subjected to the same economical, cultural and environmental barriers in higher education as people with physical impairments.

The social model of dyslexia Cooper, R. Dyslexic people are likely to think visually or laterally in some learning situations where neuro-typicals would be more likely to think verbally or logically. If you do not already have an account you will need to register here. Due to migration of article submission systems, please check the status of your submitted manuscript in the relevant system below:.

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