We have a long way to go before disability is viewed as just another way of being in the world and discrimination ceases. However, we cannot fight the discrimination that people with disabilities face daily until we acknowledge that it is discrimination. To do this we must begin to view disability by means of a "minority model" instead of a "medical model." Here is a comparison of these two views of disability:1

It is absurd to exempt people with disabilities from the regular responsibilities that society demands.

The Medical Model

This model gives all the power to the professionals and takes power away from people with disabilities. The sick role in our society is this:

  1. The patient does not have to do the same things as people who aren't sick. They are not expected to work or go to school.
  2. The patient is a victim of their - state.
  3. The state of being sick is considered legitimate if:
    - the patient co-operates with the doctors or therapists and tries to get better, and
    - the sick role is temporary.

There are many negative results for people with disabilities cast in this "sick role." People may not be given the chance to work or go to school even when they are able and want to; they are seen as always needing social support and help. If a person does not want to co-operate with professionals managing their "case," she or he is se en as rebellious and ungrateful. The sick role blames all the obstacles a person faces on the disability instead of on an unaccommodating environment (eg. it is my problem that nerve damage in my body prevents me from walking and climbing stairs, instead of the community's fault for not providing an alternative to stairs). The person with a disability is seen as a perpetual victim because they are not responsible for their state. Most people with disabilities do not see themselves this way.

The Minority Mode
This model changes the perspective from sickness to discrimination. Being a member of a minority group means:

  1. A person is not exempt from ordinary roles but may be prevented from participating in such roles because of the attitudes and actions of people not in the minority group.
  2. A person is responsible for her/his actions, but barriers and lack of opportunities may limit her/ his situation.
  3. The person has much in common with members of other minority groups and therefore:
    - the person is able to learn from the language and tactics of the civil rights movement about ways to reduce discrimination, and
    - solidarity with other members of the group
    and with members of other minority groups provides strength and help.
    - Those in a minority group may need to limit the involvement of those not in the minority group in the decision-making process.


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