Chapter 2: Making Sense of Disability

In a nutshell …

In this second chapter we will be focusing on disability to help you understand how social attitudes towards disability have a significant bearing on disabled people’s quality of life. Unfortunately, negative, inaccurate and unhelpful views about disability and disabled people are quite common in our society. This chapter will explain why it is important to move away from these unhelpful views and will clarify some of the complexities involved. As with Chapter 1, there is a set of video presentations in this section of the guidebook, covering each of the following:
Equality and diversity
The social model of disability
Inclusion and exclusion
Pitfalls to avoid
The basics
Before focusing on disability equality issues in particular, we are going to look at equality and diversity, an important topic that needs careful consideration. This is so that we can have a better understanding of the wider context that disability equality forms part of. We cover the key issues through another video, so please click on that when you are ready. 


Video 2.1: Equality and diversity 

Now that you have an overview of what equality and diversity are all about, we can begin to explore how disability equality fits into that picture. What you will need to do is watch the two short videos below to get an idea about what is known as ‘the social model of disability’.


Video 2.2: The social model of disability


Video 2.3:

The social model of disability was developed to challenge a medical model of disability which presents physical impairments as medical problems that individuals have to contend with. The main problems with a medical approach are:
  1. It presents disabled people as ‘less than’ non-disabled people, rather than simply ‘different from’ them. The technical term for this is that it ‘pathologises’ disabled people – that is, it makes it seem that an impairment is necessarily a problem, as if it were an illness or other medical condition that needs to be treated. 
  2. It fails to take account of how wider social issues (such as attitudes) can have a very limiting effect on disabled people’s lives. It adopts a very narrow perspective on disability that can have a distorting effect, so it doesn’t do justice to the realities of disabled people’s lives.
  3. By presenting disability in individualistic, medical terms it pays no attention to disabled people’s rights.
The net effect of a medical model of disability is that it contributes to what the textbooks call ‘social exclusion’ – that is, it reinforces a view that disabled people are not fully part of society, somehow set apart as a special category, rather than ordinary people just like everyone else.
This idea of ‘social exclusion’ is an important one, and so the next part of the guidebook focuses on it more closely. This involves looking in more detail at the social model of disability and why it is important for you and other personal assistants to understand the implications of not seeing disability as simply a medical matter. 
So, that is what this next video is all about. 


Video 2.4: Inclusion and exclusion 

Next we are going to look at some pitfalls to avoid, potential mistakes that could cause problems for yourself, for the person you support or both. The next video gives you an overview of some of these, but please note that what it covers is not by any means an exhaustive list.


Video 2.5: Pitfalls to avoid

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