The Definition of Disability Perspective of the Disability Community The questions of the definition of "person with a disability" and how persons with disabilities perceive themselves are knotty and complex.It is no accident that these questions are emerging at the same time that the status of persons with disabilities in society is changing dramatically.
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THE REHABILITATION MODEL is similar to the medical model; it regards the person with a disability as in need of services from a rehabilitation professional who can provide training, therapy, counseling or other services to make up for the deficiency caused by the disability.
Historically, it gained acceptance after World War II when many disabled veterans needed to be re-introduced into society.
THE MEDICAL MODEL came about as "modern" medicine began to develop in the 19th Century, along with the enhanced role of the physician in society.
Since many disabilities have medical origins, people with disabilities were expected to benefit from coming under the direction of the medical profession.
When people are sick, they are excused from the normal obligations of society: going to school, getting a job, taking on family responsibilities, etc.
They are also expected to come under the authority of the medical profession in order to get better.
Thus, until recently, most disability policy issues have been regarded as health issues, and physicians have been regarded as the primary authorities in this policy area.
One can see the influence of the medical model in disability public policy today, most notably in the Social Security system, in which disability is defined as the inability to work.
Under this model, the problems that are associated with disability are deemed to reside within the individual.
In other words, if the individual is "cured" then these problems will not exist.
For the individual with a disability, this model is particularly burdensome.