Position on the Medical Model of Disability

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The Disability Intersection rejects the medical model of disability.  This model asserts that disability is an intrinsic weakness and a medical condition.  While disability has medical aspects, we believe that the medical aspects of disability are overemphasized.  The belief that disability is a medical condition and a weakness has been justification for discriminatory, unequal practices for centuries.  

In addition, it has a tremendous impact on the self-esteem of people with disabilities and others’ respect for our autonomy.  This leads to many other issues, creating a cycle.  Much of the research on health and disability uses the word “disability” as an antonym for health.  This does not provide a fair view of the experience and indicates a very narrow definition of health as necessarily including no possible physical or mental differences from an idealized norm.  We find this frightening and dismissive.

Instead, the Disability Intersection believes in the use of the social, or minority, model of disability.  This model asserts that people with disabilities are members of a social minority.  It emphasizes disability as a form of diversity much like race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and age.  

The Disability Intersection is unique, however, in that it believes that the social model of disability also has a tendency to ignore physical aspects of disability in its  understandable attempt to move away from the medical model.  The Disability Intersection seeks to acknowledge physical and emotional aspects of the disability experience in an empowering way that honors our long struggle against the medical model while fully acknowledging our bodies.

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