Medical model

A person sitting in a wheelchair, with their left hand on the left wheel

The medical model of disability is a model by which illness or disability is the result of a physical condition, is intrinsic to the individual (it is part of that individual’s own body), may reduce the individual’s quality of life, and causes clear disadvantages to the individual.

Under this model of disability the focus is on their impairment and how this excludes them from mainstream society.

This approach can lead policy makers and service managers focussing their work on compensating people with impairments for what is wrong with their bodies. This could be through targeting specific benefits at them or providing segregated services.

The medical model can also affect the way people with a disability think about themselves. The negative message can convey that all the problems of living with a disability stem from not having ‘normal’ bodies. A disabled person could then think that their impairments automatically exclude them from participating in social activities.

This subversive form of oppression can make people with an impairment less likely to challenge their exclusion from mainstream society.