There are two models that are used in the discussion of equality and diversity, the medical model and a slightly newer model which was developed in the 60s within the paper of Paul Hunt, ‘A Critical condition’ named the social model. The differences between the medical and the social model create different impacts on the professional role and how they affect equality and diversity within these roles. In basic terms the medical model views the individual as being defined by their label and the problem is within the individual whereas the social model views disability as being caused by barriers within society via either physical or the attitudes of society. The overall idea of both models is to create equality in society.
These models of disability are influenced by organisations and professional individuals called the cognitive authority (Brittain, 2004) and conceptions of disability were originally influenced by religious explanations such as disability being the act of a higher being and that disability presented itself as an opportunity for miracles to occur. The Judeo-Christian societies (Humpage, 2007) perspective lost its significance when professionals could offer scientific and medical knowledge in place of religious explanations (Humpage, 2007), introducing the medical model.
Disability is seen to be a physical or mental impairment that is perceived to create limitations for an individual. This is a term that is difficult but important to define due to the continuous evolving of society, and is defined as “The way in which disability is defined is important because the language people use to describe individuals with disabilities influences their expectations and interactions with them” (Haegele & Hodge, 2016 cite Barton, 2009). The medical model of equality and diversity perceives disability negatively and views it as a problem within society that needs to be ‘fixed’ through medical treatment. This treatment is controlled and determined by professionals such as doctors or in an educational context, teachers, who suggest that the most effective way to help/cure the disability is by placing the individuals in the care of medical professionals, for example in institutional care or rehabilitation programmes (Humpage, 2007). In this model the disability defines the individual and in effect, changes the way society treats the individual (Fitzgerald, 2006).
The relationship between the medical model and the professional role is that the professionals such as doctors are able to label people into specific disabilities, allowing them to be treated for what is wrong with them. This is an important effect as the medical professional is in control of the treatment of the impaired individual. The diagnosis from the professional gives the disabled individual a label that this seen by critics as negative of the medical model as they view it as a restriction for the impaired person due to stigmatism (Riddick, B. 2000); whilst others perceive the label as a possible positive for the model as it could allow the individual to seek help and support from other professionals such as specialists or help groups. This label also allows them to gain physical benefits such as gaining access to a wheelchair.
However, another negative of the medical model is that it can negatively affect the parent of the individual with the impairment, such as children. This can be seen in the psychological model of parents reactions to finding out about their child’s disability named ‘Meaninglessness and Powerlessness’ (Case., 2000 cites Seligman. & Darling., 1989). They state that the news of disability encourages the parents of the individual to take on the ‘role of the other’. This means that others’ reactions and definitions are taken into account, affecting the parents own values and behaviour. This model is also supported by the work of Dale (1996), who argues that when in professional controlled environments or when in the presence of professionals, a parent may feel powerless or inadequate in comparison to a professional. This therefore highlights how the medical model impacts the professional role as it gives the professionals more control and influence over the diagnosis and treatment of impairment.
The social model of equality and diversity views disability as a label that is put upon an individual by society, and that the barriers of an impaired person are not in fact put upon them by their physical or mental capabilities but rather by society (Haegele & Hodge, 2016), this ultimately impacts the professional role as they are influenced by the attitudes and views of society around them. The social model of equality and diversity sees the terms ‘disability’ and ‘impairment’ as two separate features, disability being a restriction from society or others and an impairment being an abnormality of a bodily function including the mind. These two terms are important to be identified as the social model pinpoints that an individuals’ limits is put in place by society and not themselves (Heagle and Hodge cite Barney, 2012; Roush & Sharby, 2011.) This model suggests that the individual is not what needs to be fixed or cured but rather society needs to change and carter to the needs of the impaired individual which can be done through social change and political action (Bingham et al., 2013).
The social model sets out to remove the barriers in which restricts the life choices for disabled people, which are not just physical barriers such as wheelchair users not being able to access upper level floors via stairs. A barrier for a disabled individual can be societies attitudes and treatment, preventing them from having equal opportunity. However, the social model of equality and diversity may impact the professional role of teachers in an educational environment as it effects how the school environment treats and views disability. An example of how an educational professional such as a teacher may create equal opportunity is by creating tasks that can include every child in the class regardless of the impairment, such as wheelchair basketball to include wheelchair users and to also educate the rest of the class on inclusivity.
The social model brought around a large amount of social change within society and how it views disability and impairment, ultimately impacting the professional role, such as in the workplace and in educational environments. For example, the Every Child Matters 2003 legislation which provides equal opportunity and treatment of children regardless of any impairment and of their background, thus creating equality within society whilst accepting the diversity within it. Although it may no longer be an active legislation, it greatly impacted the educational sector and the medical sector as it meant that training professionals (such as teachers) had to learn how to treat each child – regardless of impairment or background the same. However, this legislation was criticised as although this works in theory, in reality each child has different needs and therefore cannot be treated the same – one solution or action will not cater to all, this therefore does not create equality. Another legislation act that was put into place was the Equality Act of 2010 which further emphasised equality within society, dedicated to preventing discrimination. The social model ultimately impacts the professional role as it encourages social change, which then influences the way in which professionals behave within society and the classroom.
In conclusion, the medical and social models of equality and diversity both impact the professional role in a positive and negative way. The medical model defines an individual by their label, creating a negative stigma for disability as it suggests that disability is a problem that needs to be fixed. The labelling ultimately creates a sense of difference between individuals with impairments and the rest of society, this model therefore sees the individual as the problem and not society, which can be compared to the social model. This model emphasises that disability is a label put on an individual with an impairment by society and can be removed through social change. The social model of equality and diversity affects the professional role as they are influenced by the attitudes and views of society around them which are expressed through legislation. The medical model affects the professional role it labels the individual within a specific category allowing them to seek help for their impairment.