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incompatibility with adaptive technology

The medical model, then, constitutes a plausibility structure, a set of policies and procedures, whose implicit premises, namely, those defining the privileges and obligations of the sick role, unobtrusively control, indeed, oppress, persons with impairments and render them disabled and dehumanized. Unfortunately, “the sick role cancels the [impaired] person’s obligation to take charge of his or her own affairs.” Indeed, it encourages them “to accept the dependency under the sick role as normative for the duration” of the impairment (Crewe et al 1983: 17).

However, as Kassenbaum & Baumann suggest (1965: 18), where the “illness” or impairment is “not temporary, . . . [sick] role- expectations are clearly inapplicable.” An impairment, of course, may be anything but temporary, it may exist for a lifetime. Moreover, defining the problems facing persons with disabilities as a “medical problem presumes a corresponding solution . . . the domination of [their] lives by a vast army of allied [medical or health] professionals” (Barnes et al., 1999: 25). The impaired (sick) person is, then, passive, acted upon, by technically competent health professionals, rather than active on his/her own behalf. Consequently, there is a form of paternalism which, as Charlton (1998; 53) notes, works to view “people with disabilities . . . [as] unable to take responsibility for their own lives.” In short, the sick role works to deprive an impaired person of the autonomy, the control of one’s own affairs, which is the defining mark of human personhood.

In its initial phase, then, the disability rights movement came to view the medical model as oppressive, a major source of the exclusion from the mainstream of society, the domain of healthy, unimpaired people; and, therefore as a major source of the oppressive marginalization of people with impairments. In its second phase, the movement sought to undercut the hegemony of the medical model and to replace it with a new model. It also called for legislation which would enable those with disabilities to claim their rights as citizens and to attain a productive role in the nation’s economy and for the creation of independent living centers in which the new model would be employed and which would empower those with disabilities as citizens with a productive role in the nation’s economy.

Phase II: Proposed Solutions

In all, the disability rights movement proposed solution to the problem of the oppressive marginalization of people with disabilities entails a three pronged approach: 1) the ideological, challenging the medical model and proposing to replace it with a new one, the social model, as the proper model for understanding disability; 2) the legislative, proposing new laws, e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to guarantee the rights of those with impairments; and 3) the organizational, proposing the creation of Independent Living Centers in which those with impairments are be responsible for their own success (or failure).

The Social Model
The old, medical model, as noted above, is a plausibility structure, i.e., a set of policies and procedures, whose premises unobtrusively control the lives of people with impairments. Indeed, it is a structure which oppresses such persons by rendering them disabled and dehumanized. Specifically, according to the medical model, the problems facing persons with a disabilities are, simply, medical problems. Medical problems, of course, call for treatment by an array of medical professionals. Submission to professional treatment, as viewed by the medical model, renders the impaired (sick) person passive, unable to exhibit the defining mark of personhood, the control of one’s own affairs. Consequently, the disability rights movement views the medical model as oppressive, a major source of the exclusion of people with impairments disabilities from the mainstream, the putative domain of “healthy,” unimpaired people.