The Medical Model of Disability


What is the medical model of disability and how does it apply to education?

Traditionally, Disabled people were seen as being disabled by their impairments (eg blindness or autism). If you cure their impairments, the issue of how Disabled people fit into society goes away. Society doesn’t have to change to accommodate them.

For example if a wheelchair user can’t get into a building, the problem is seen as being that they are in a wheelchair, not that there is no ramp.

Unfortunately this doesn’t really work because not everyone can be cured so there will always be Disabled people. If they can’t access the same education, work and social opportunities as everyone else this has huge implications for their opportunities and quality of life.

Historically many Disabled people have been sent to special schools which have often been very medicalised. The child or young person’s education has been centred around their impairment, and how to minimise this. This doesn’t help the child or young person to become part of society, and it doesn’t help non-disabled children of the same age learn how to include them.

ALLFIE follows the social model of disability instead.

Further reading:

Inclusive education reading list for students

Resources for education professionals

More definitions