Medical Model


The medical model of disability sees disability as something wrong with a person’s brain or body that needs to be cured.

The medical model focuses on disability as a medical condition. Under the medical model, “disability” is used to mean the same thing as disease. When someone doesn’t have the same kind of brain or body that most people do, the medical model says that something is wrong with them. The medical model works well with pity- or charity-based ways of thinking about disability. If something is wrong with a person’s brain or body that needs to be fixed, then it is okay to pity that person and want to change her to make her more normal. The medical model can also be used to look at disabled people as a “cost” or “burden” on society.

Because the medical model sees disability as a medical condition, it says that disability should be prevented if possible. Treatments, in the medical model, should be focused on removing the disability and making the disabled person as typical as possible. The medical model sees the problem of disability as a problem with the disabled person; it believes that the solution to the problem of disability is to fix the disabled person.

-List of related media/links


-List of concrete examples

  • Case example: Oral method schools for Deaf students

  • Case example: Comparing autism to cancer

  • Case example: Severity scales for various disabilities

Usage example: “In the medical model, disability is primarily or solely a medical problem.”

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