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Sociology of disability ­part 1

Slide 2

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The biomedical approach to disability
Best (2005)- defines disability as based on a persons
inability to fully participate in various activities that the
rest of us take for granted such as washing up, cleaning
yourself and shopping.
It is assumed that disabled people have a physical or
mental impairment which prevents them from operating
`normally'. This perception starts from the assumption
that there is such a thing as a `normal body' and a `normal
range' of activities associated with it which are associated
in some way. These definitions stem from the biomedical
model of disability.…read more

Slide 3

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The biomedical model of disability
Disability is a personal tragedy and therefore
the disables deserve our pity and charity
The disabled are dependent on the able
bodied and are unable to function effectively
without constant help.
There are few medical cures for disability
Disabled people can only live a normal life if
they receive round the clock care.…read more

Slide 4

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The social construction model of disability
The social model of disability believes that it is society that disables
people with impairments as they are excluded from full participation
in society by the stereotypical attitudes held by able bodies people,
the way society is managed and by discriminatory practices.
Shakespeare- criticises the biomedical model of disability as it
assumes there is such thing as a `normal' physical body. Shakespeare
states that bodies should be viewed as part of a continuum with fit
able-bodied people at one end of the spectrum and severely
disabled bedridden people at the other. In between there will be a
range of activities and impairments which are interpreted by
different ways by society.
Oliver- criticises the biomedical model as he suggests that most
people in society have some sort of impairment but are not labelled
as disabled by society such as wearing glasses or having false teeth.
The social model suggests that disability is often viewed as a type o
deviance in that it is interpreted by able-bodied society as an
`abnormal' state and as being inferior to being able bodies.…read more

Slide 5

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The social reaction to disability ­(being
disabled by society)
Oliver- says the biomedical model labels disabled people as
incapable of living a `normal' life and it is because of the label that
prejudicial social attitudes and discriminatory practices develop. It is
the social reaction of society to people with impairments that is the
problem as society excludes these people and having negative
attitudes towards them. The problem of disability is not found in
the actual impairment but in the social constructions of prejudice
that surrounds disability. This supports the argument that disability
is a social construction as it is the product of both the physical
impairment and the social reaction to that impairment.
For example people who have to use wheelchairs can be seen as
being disabled by society's failure to provide a social environment in
which they can be just a mobile as able-bodied people. The problem
is not the physical or biological fact of being disabled but the social
constructions of prejudice that surround disability.…read more

Slide 6

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Marxist interpretation of disability
Marxist Finkelstein says our negative cultural attitudes
towards the disabled is due to capitalisms emphasis
on work as a source of identity, status and power.
Finkelstein suggests that in pre-industrial societies
disabled people were not treated differently or
segregated as people worked on farms etc. however
industrialization was responsible for a dramatic shift
in cultural attitudes as capitalist societies needed a
healthy and able-bodies workforce to create profits
for the bourgeoisie so the disabled became an
economic burden for society as they needed to be
supported with benefits and so came to be defined as
abnormal and as a social problem and were put in
workhouses.…read more

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