Various segments of our society view people with disabilities in a variety of ways. Many early views were discriminatory and created punitive barriers to community inclusion, education, employment and accessible housing.

The general public’s view of people with disabilities was based on interaction in the community. The medical view was based on illness and treatment. The governmental view of people with disabilities was based on protecting society and caring for the unfortunate.

Take a moment and list ways non-disabled people view people with disabilities.


The public often feels uncomfortable around people with disabilities. In the past, it was felt that they should be shut away from society. Special schools, nursing homes or hospitals were the best places for the disabled. They could be cared for and allowed to live in a protected environment for their own safety. Pity for “those unfortunates” often resulted in people turning away from or being overly helpful to people with disabilities they encountered on the street.


The physician is the expert. The patient was expected to cooperate and assume the “sick person role.” A “sick person” was exempt from normal responsibilities and activities. The main purpose of medical treatment was to provide restorative care. People with disabilities were “not well” and needed medical care to help them “fit into society.” Like fixing a broken bone, the medical model believed that a disability should be fixed.


Government agencies believed that severely disabled people needed to be cared for because they couldn't work and were unable to care for and support themselves. People with disabilities did not have the same rights as “normal” people in society. Laws were passed to protect people with disabilities and protect society from people with disabilities. People with some disabilities could be a danger to themselves and others.

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