Medical and Social models

Medical and Social models

  • SJRK,
  • TIG,
  • medical model,
  • social model

Throughout the SJRK project, our organization has collaborated with many initiatives that are advancing programming for people with disabilities. Designing inclusively, to support people who have different needs than your own can be challenging, as sometimes differing needs and the accommodations to overcome them may not be obvious. Being open, collaborative, humble and iterative can help when there is no good way to anticipate how to ensure delivery in an inclusive way.

One story I have in this realm relates to a training that I conducted for 40 deaf language instructors as part of a collaborative training program. As a very novice practitioner of ASL and one of the very few hearing people in the room, it was fascinating to experience a context where the medical model of disability (where “the individual is seen as the problem”) and the social model of disability (where “social barriers are the problem”) was so apparent to me.

I, for the first time in my experience, was very much disadvantaged by the context, a community of folks who I had previously understood to be at a disadvantage. Here, in the room, my inability to understand ASL put me at a disadvantage in being able to communicate with and understand the community of ASL native speakers.

There were interpreters available, which were heavily relied upon to both understand and respond to questions and content throughout the training.

This training flipped me and my perspective on my head. I walked into the room as a hearing person, and left the room as an incompetent user of ASL. The difference was merely a change of perspective. I was very appreciative of the opportunity to learn, share and engage with the deaf community and I revealed so much about my own assumptions through the experience.