• Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:


Models of Disability/Special Education

Special education is the way that students with special needs are educated to understand and accept their individual differences and needs. This kind of education is designed to equip learners with knowledge of self-realisation, success in academic levels and also enable them to understand the community in general (Turnbull,1995). 

Tools used to define impairment and strategies used to come up with particular methods that both the government and the society in general can be used to cater for the necessities of individuals with disabilities are referred as models of disabilities ( Gable,2014)

In this paper two models are discussed, to begin with we have a model of disability referred to as medical, this is one that results from persons’ mental or physical limitations. Medical form of disability is neither connected to the geographical or social environment (Brisenden,1986).

Special or social model of medication is viewed as the results of social or environmental barriers that limits the fully participation of the people with disability in a society

The most preferred and adopted model by the disabled people’s organisation and the government is the social model this is because it seeks to eliminate unnecessary barriers that limits the involvement of the individuals with incapacity in the society (Shakespeare & Watson, 2001).

The social model also recognises the attitude towards the disabled people and comes up with proactive actions to accordingly deal with any kind of attitude that may be a limitation to a disabled person.

Similarities between Medical and Special Models of Disability

Both medical and special models of disability concentrate and draw their conclusions about people with special need education needs and those with disabilities

These kind of models are based on different form of ideas but they tend to have similar theoretical problems

They both face various kind of barriers which act as limitations to the day to day activities of the people living with disability in the society

Medical and social model of disability tend to enable people living with various kind of disability to fit into the society with no or minimal discrimination

They both suggest different views about how disability is significant to reproductive decisions and social policy they also propose various ideas about the impact of disability on the day to day activities and living.

Differences between Special and Medical Forms of Disability

The medical form is viewed as deficiency or abnormality hence disabled children are provided with a special school and are arrived at by various qualifications whereas for the special model disabled children are educated alongside the non-disabled .special model ensures education is accessible to all with same opportunities and qualifications.

Medical models ensures a standard form of communication for the disabled like letters are enlarged for the visual impaired and if they are unable to read they are given magnifiers to read or someone else has to read for them. Special model ensures that a form of communication is tailored to meet a person’s needs and is in varieties of formats.

For the medical model there is an attitude therefore people makes assumptions based on medical information and an individual’s conditions. Special model avails a platform where people talk

to the disabled and get to know their needs and the challenges they face in their day to day activities (Landsman, 2005)

The form of language used is based on an individual’s medical condition, what is ailing them their abilities and challenges whereas the kind of language for the special model focuses on the barriers met and what can be made to eliminate such barriers.

Individuals living with disabilities are seen as a problem in medical form since mostly they have to be adapted so as to be accepted by the society as well as the world, disabled people should not inconvenience anyone else and if this is impossible they have to be put into special institutions or stay at home where their needs will be met.

On the other hand special model positions disability as a result of the ways the public is structured unlike the other model, special model find ways that can eliminate the barriers that restricts life choices of disabled people

Medical institutions sprang up to cater for the disabled people, some were cured and those who were not were placed in special schools and institutions, medical science has now evolved and is used a centre where disabled people leave, their pain is reduced and also a place of comfort for the disabled people.

Social model fights for equal opportunities for both abled and disabled people, here disabled people are granted rights to access architecture, transport, physical environment, housing and also defends disabled people from abuse and violations.

Medical model deals with people’s impairment and how this people can fit in the society whereas the social kind of model concentrates with the people with disability itself and design services that will fit for them.

In the medical model the only person who understands the persons with disability and is in the position to help them in either way to fit in a society is a professional whereas in the special model any person in the society can help a disabled person fit in the society.

Medical model views disability as something bad to an individual whereas the special model neither views it as something good nor bad but as part of a being which should be embraced.

Disability is a hold back as viewed by the medical model which makes people be different in a bad way, disability is just but a difference like sex or nationality as viewed by the special model

The only way to help people living with disability is by either curing them or making the disability in them look like no issue or very small on the other hand the special model can help this people abled differently by availing things they might need

The special model also known as the social model of disability has been ranked best over the other models since it creates a platform for the people abled differently best fit in the society and be able to access any kind resource with no limitation

The social model eliminates any forms of inequality to people abled in different ways since inability is viewed just as any other difference that individuals might possess.


Brisenden, S. (1986). Independent living and the medical model of disability.Disability, Handicap & Society, 1(2), 173-178.

Gable, AS. (2014) ‘Disability theorising and real-world educational practice: a framework for understanding’, Disability & society, vol.29, no. 1, pp. 86-100

Landsman, G. (2005) ‘Mothers and models of Disability’, Journal of Medical Humanities, vol.26, nos. 2-3,

Shakespeare, T., & Watson, N. (2001). The social model of disability: an outdated ideology? Exploring theories and expanding methodologies: Where we are and where we need to go, (2), 9-28.

Turnbull, A. P. (1995). Exceptional lives: Special education in today’s schools. Merrill/Prentice Hall, Order Department, 200 Old Tappan Rd., Old Tappan, NJ 07675.