Theoretical Approaches to Disablement

Paper Info
Page count 7
Word count 1952
Read time 7 min
Topic Sociology
Type Essay
Language 🇺🇸 US


People are born with different abilities and in the course of living their creation can be altered due to different environmental conditions and life circumstances. One common feature of humanity is ability versus disability. Disability refers to limitations of a person’s capacity, which is viewed differently by diverse cultures and historical periods. The diversity is replicated in the different approaches people use to consider the plight of people with disabilities. Therefore, many models explain the existence of disabilities in human beings. This paper presents a relative analysis of different theoretical approaches to disagreement. The approaches discussed include the moral, medical, social, economic, human rights, limit, and cultural ones. In addition, the discussion covers the limitations and advantages of each model along with the implications for practice, social policy, and cultural understandings of ‘disability.’ Each model presents a different perspective that is premised on a particular context relied upon to explain disablement.

The Moral (Religious) Approach

The moral/religious approach to disability is the oldest and most common model. It is premised on religious views, which hold that disability is a form of retribution by God to the disabled people for sins that they may have committed. Some of the perceived wrongs include the failure of an individual to adhere to religious proclaim and social, moral teachings. Furthermore, the moral theory discerns a disability as a test of belief. The disability is regarded as God’s choosing of individuals and families for them to be disabled as a way of redemption through resilience, endurance, and righteousness (Goodley, 2017). If the disabled pass the test of faith, they come to be healed physically. According to Goodley (2017), those who are not healed are presupposed to have no faith in the creator, God. Another prominent perception of disability under the religious model is a way through which God enables the disabled people to develop better behaviors. The disabled person is required to develop and preach specific character qualities, such as perseverance, courage, and patience.

The key benefit of the model entails encouraging people to obey the religious teachings and conduct themselves under the appropriate moral code. However, it has had a damaging effect on the disabled population. The moral and spiritual teachings seem to exclude the disabled by hastily or indirectly equating their disability to evil, religious incapacity, or human sin. In some instances, the disability is connected to evil acts that the parents and antecedents may have perpetrated. Consequently, the model has the potency of entirely excluding some families taking part in social activities. In addition, irrespective of whether the disability occurred naturally or by accident, people see it as a curse shaming disabled people and their relatives. Due to these limitations, the religious model has lost prominence in the contemporary world. The current biblical teachings reject its application, implying that it may soon be abandoned.

The Medical Approach

The medical model gained prominence from the 20th century onwards and gradually dislodged the deeply rooted religious model. It emanates from advanced studies and discoveries in the contemporary medical field. Accordingly, disability is considered a medical situation that dwells in the disabled person. It could be caused by a defect in or fault of bodily functioning, which is naturally unusual and pathological. The medical model proposes corrective interventions in the form of medicine, rehabilitation, or amelioration of the physical ailment.

The model has successfully promoted extensive medical research to understand the causes and cures for different disabilities. In addition, it has fostered a greater understanding of disabled people’s plight in society. However, this model has been judged to be objectively awful as it makes a disability a pitiful condition. Consequently, the negative connotation of disability under the medical model has endorsed dubious medical procedures conducted on people with disabilities, such as euthanasia and obligatory sterilization. Regler (2018) argues that the medical model is blamed for the emergence of negative terminologies, including crippled, invalid, handicapped, spastic, and retarded. It promotes dualism that tends to classify the non-disabled people as superior or better than the disabled.

The shortcomings of this approach may limit future research in disabilities and may result in a crude form of treatment. For instance, medical practitioners view a disabled person as a problem requiring a solution. The model accords clinicians much power in diagnosing the disabled based on what is considered ‘normal’ in society. Such a perception does not take into consideration the human aspects of the disabled person, such as their emotions, feelings, disappointments, or joy (Goodley, 2017). The model positions a disabled person as the one to change or else be fixed, but not concentrate on resolving the causes of the disability. Strong advocates of the medical model are highly expected to perceive the disabled populace as failures and an embarrassment to society.

The Social Approach

The social model on disability emerged from activist undertakings by the British Disability Movement (BDM) in the past five to six decades. The new model of disability came into being in response to the shortcomings of the medical model. The approach, also called the minority model, dictates that the society is to blame for despising people with disabilities. As such, any impactful response requires a societal change in place of individual adjustment and rehabilitation. As a result of the BDM activism, the Union of the Physically Impaired against Segregation (UPIAS) was published. The document gave emphasis on the value of a social approach in defining disability. It distinguishes between impairment and being disabled and states that disability is a social construct primarily imposed on people with disabilities as a kind of social oppression.

Additionally, UPIAS opposed using the term ‘people with disability in preference for the other’ disabled people, which is a better reflection of societal intimidation that people with impairments encounter in their daily lives. People with a disability were closely associated with the undesirable medical approach. The social model seeks to deal with the shortcomings of participation by disabled people across varied social and environmental elements in society. Goodley (2017) states that the social model has dramatically impacted the understanding of disability in the present day. It has been instrumental in shaping different social policies at a national level and global level. Even as the social model may have been liberating, it has been criticized for ignoring the painful realities of impairment. Therefore, with people having varying impairments, the use of the term disabled is considered somewhat extreme. Additionally, the social approach’s distinction between impairment and disability is perceived as short-sighted.

The Economic Approach

Just as the name suggests, the model discerns a disability from the standpoint of economic analysis. It closely looks at different damaging impacts of impairment on someone’s abilities. Specifically, it focuses on the employability attributes of a disabled person. Even though it asserts the significance of civil rights and respect for individuals with disabilities, such interests are preceded by the economic contribution of people with disabilities. It reflects their potency to be productive and support economic growth and development (Goodley, 2017). As a result, governments prefer to employ the model in referring to the formation of policies affecting disabled people. Nonetheless, the economic approach to disability faces criticism for framing disability quite wholly in a cost-benefit analysis. Therefore, it overlooks critical considerations that may dehumanize a disabled person by focusing on their missing parts of the body.

The Human Rights Approach

It is closely associated with the social approach, only that it provides a wider explanation of disability. It proposes a theoretical framework for disabled people by introducing the component of human dignity. It covers human rights across the political, economic, social, cultural, and civil freedoms. The human rights approach recognizes the pain and agony in the lives of many disabled people. It considers that a number of people with disabilities encounter difficult life circumstances and insists that such factors should be considered in developing pertinent theories of social justice. The approach attaches great value to identity politics and accommodates minority and cultural recognition. Goodley (2017) states that the human rights model recognizes the validity that suitably developed prevention policies may well be considered an example of human rights protection for disabled people. Lastly, the human rights approach provides practical suggestions for enhancing the quality of life for people living with disabilities.

The Limits Approach

The limits approach is distinctly theological and was formulated by Creamer in 2009. He stated that disability is best appreciated by referring to the disabled people’s quintessence and ‘limitness.’ The disabled person’s embodiment is based on the fact that the human body ought to be considered exceptionally in theological aspects. Therefore, the reality of embodied occasion should be deemed a critical basis for taking part in theological teachings. Goodley (2017) states that the model lays emphasis on the theological thinking that concentrates on what is written on, of, or by the physique. The consideration stretches beyond sensory experiences to cover economics, politics, science, media, and a myriad of other issues in the postmodern era. In addition, the model helps to define the way in which the topic of disability should be addressed, particularly when evaluated from the perspective of what Creamer refers to as ‘limitness.’

Since all human beings are limited in one way or another, this model aims to shun categorizing people based on their bodies. It considers that every limitation of people is normal and good, given that some people will struggle to defeat certain limits. It is preferable to consider a person’s experiences, which consider that people may be limited but be able to perform ordinary functions.

The Cultural Approach

The cultural viewpoint on disability evolved in North America out of interdisciplinary research actions. Research work on disability was conducted by an assortment of academics and researchers drawn from the fields of humanities and social sciences. The cultural approach is vastly different from the social and medical models. The social and medical models were established on a single factor in a disability, whereas the cultural approach implicates several cultural considerations. Therefore, both the social and medical approaches provide a narrow view of disability. The cultural model does not seek to characterize disability in any specific fashion. However, the approach covers varying thoughts on how disability and non-disability interact in from the perspective of a particular civilization.

The cultural approach involves definite cultural locations of disability on behalf of disabled people. The locations specify where the disabled persons are affixed occasionally against their wishes. Some cultural locations include documentary film representations of disability, sheltered workshops for the disabled, and institutions for the feeble-minded. However, these localities have modernist inferences that define them. Specifically, it is wrong to categorize human differences or disabilities and then govern them through different organizational settings. Still, ideas such as the independent living movement, disability rights movement, and the disability culture, provide good ways of exploring disablement. In general, the cultural approach is widely embraced by society since different deaf culture theorists have adopted it.


The perception of disability has evolved from the traditional religious view to the current varying approaches. Today, many models seek to explain disability and its impacts on disabled persons. The models form the foundation of improving society’s consideration of people with a disability as part of humanity. They draw upon people to examine themselves in determining the extent to which any of the above disability approaches sway their thoughts about the disabled population. Even as the approaches succeeded in explaining how people view person’s with disability, they are characterized by several limitations that cut down their effectiveness in winning a universal conviction. It is on the basis of the shortcomings that people implore fresh thinking and creativity to develop new models away from the existing frameworks of considering the plight of the disabled.


Goodley, D. (2017). Disability studies an interdisciplinary introduction. Los Angeles London New Delhi Singapore Washington Dc Melbourne Sage.

Regler, R. (2018). Disability psychotherapy: an innovative approach to trauma-informed care. Disability & Society, 33(7), 1179–1181.

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EssaysInCollege. (2023, April 22). Theoretical Approaches to Disablement. Retrieved from


EssaysInCollege. (2023, April 22). Theoretical Approaches to Disablement.

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"Theoretical Approaches to Disablement." EssaysInCollege, 22 Apr. 2023,


EssaysInCollege. (2023) 'Theoretical Approaches to Disablement'. 22 April.


EssaysInCollege. 2023. "Theoretical Approaches to Disablement." April 22, 2023.

1. EssaysInCollege. "Theoretical Approaches to Disablement." April 22, 2023.


EssaysInCollege. "Theoretical Approaches to Disablement." April 22, 2023.


EssaysInCollege. 2023. "Theoretical Approaches to Disablement." April 22, 2023.

1. EssaysInCollege. "Theoretical Approaches to Disablement." April 22, 2023.


EssaysInCollege. "Theoretical Approaches to Disablement." April 22, 2023.