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Adopting the Social Models

One of the central tenets of the social model of disability may be stated rather forthrightly: “Disability is not measles. It is not a medical condition that needs to be eliminated from the population” (Rioux 1994: 7). In other words, the social model rejects the notion that disability is a disease, or even that it is primarily a medical condition.

One consequence, perhaps unexpected or unintended, of such rejection is that the disability rights movement finds itself uninvolved in many discussions of reform in the health care system which could benefit people with disabilities. Managed care is one such reform. Rejection of the medical model has also led the movement to oppose legislation, e.g., unlimited abortion rights and the legalization of assisted suicides or euthanasia., supported by many who were allies when the movement looked to for support of its own causes and concerns (Watson 1993).

Since the movement still has unfinished business which may require Congressional action, not supporting those who once supported it may not be wise. It can so weaken the coalition supporting legislation the disability rights movement wants that such legislation will not pass. Legislation is, after all, generally the result of the action of strong coalitions. For example, the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-170) which hopes to provide opportunities for persons with disabilities to be productive citizens, was enacted following “the inexhaustible effort of the disability community’s grassroots organizations