Case Study: Living With Disability

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Victor was an ambitious and active 19-year-old promising fine-arts student when a motor-vehicle accident left him paralysed from the neck down and caused the death of him of the dad.

“A model is a system, a procedure or a structure that serves as an example to follow or imitate.” (Fresh Perspectives, 2018) Due to the numerous causes of disability, various individuals have different opinions of what a disability is. In turn, their opinions influence how they acknowledge the disabled. This makes it extremely difficult to have one definitions or explanation of what a disability is, hence three different models of disability were developed which are the medical models, the social model and the biopsychosocial model of disability. “Each of the three models defines disability differently and has its own focus in guiding the activities of different people, such as health professionals, policy makers, disability activists, community members, traditional healers, economists, politicians and town planners.” (Fresh Perspectives, 2018) The following paragraphs will include the knowledge I have gained regarding the different models of disability as well as their impact on Victor.

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The medical model of disability defines disability as “a health problem in the individual that requires curing or adjusting.” (FP, 2018) The health professional is seen as the expert with the knowledge and skills to “cure, improve or reduce impairments in the body and mind,” thereby improving the quality of life for those with impairments. This means that they are put in power in matters relating to those with disabilities which eventually leads to the disabled depending on health professionals. The disabled are viewed as “defective persons” due to their inability to perform a variety of tasks that their counterparts can. (FP, 2018) This model advocates that people with disabilities should be looked after within the medical context meaning they belong in residential homes where they are looked after because they can not be fixed according to conventional norms. As a result of this model, homes are established for the disabled resulting in a division between them and their counterparts due to their isolation whereas integration should be promoted since their disability does not mean they become a different species from those considered ‘normal.’ The following paragraph will look at the impact of the medical model of disability on Victor.

The social model of disability defines disability as “the marginalisation and oppression of people who are seen to be less able or worthy than others because of differences in their body structure, functioning and abilities.” (FP, 2018) Using this model, there is a distinction between impairment and disability. Impairment refers to a fault in one’s body structure while a disability is based on how society treats an individual regarded as different from the normal. The social model argues that those with impairments should be separated from their counterparts. This results in the marginalisation of those with impairments resulting in society judging them as disabled while ultimately viewed as inferior. An example is how there are not always ramps available for those in wheelchairs making it difficult for them to access various buildings or facilities. This can eventually lead to them believing they are unworthy to partake in activities their counterparts do such as playing sports. This is usually driven by the stigma, sympathy and negative attitude they face in public. Ultimately, they eventually withdraw themselves from the public. The following paragraph will look at the impact of the social model of disability on Victor.

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The biopsychosocial model of disability defines disability as “the interactions between impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. Active limitations are difficulties in performing activities e.g. walking, and participation restrictions are problems in involvement in any part of life e.g. discrimination in employment. This model understands the dynamic interactions between the biological, individual, social and environmental factors on a person’s life.” (FP, 2018) Therefore, through this model we come to understand that those with impairments usually have trouble in their daily activities depending on how their impairments affect their abilities. We also recognise that individuals with impairments are not always disabled, rather they become disabled when their impairments cause difficulties in adapting to an environment not suited to their needs. Using the biopsychosocial model, I now understand that if inventions/innovations are developed to aid the disabled, they become enabled. For an example a mute person is considered disabled because of their inability to communicate, however with sign-language, they become enabled due to how they are now able to communicate. Hence the biopsychosocial model advocates for adaptations that allow the disabled to be integrated into society, thereby contributing to society instead of making them feel as second-class citizens. Such adaptations involve the building of ramps to cater for those in wheelchairs and learning sign-language for the mute. The following paragraph will look at the impact of the biopsychosocial model of disability on Victor. 


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