Missouri State University

Shifting to a Socio-political Model

Universal Design and the Socio-Political Model of Disability

Disability Services' mission and purpose is driven by principles of Universal Design and the Socio-Political Model of disability. Through ongoing exploration and consultation provided to faculty, administration and departments within the University, Disability Services strives to promote this systemic change. This ideology is best explained by the information below, produced by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD).

A New Paradigm of Service Provision and Identity

In the past, many Disability Service providers built their service and philosophical constructs on the tenets of the medical or rehabilitation model. Although this has been effective in most cases in providing programmatic access and accommodations for individuals one person at a time, it reinforces a "separate but equal" system rather than full inclusion within a community of peers. It does not provide an avenue for the development of self-determination or disability pride for the person receiving services. This model does not take into account that the environment and the curriculum design often limit the full participation of disabled individuals.

Conceptual Models of Disability
Medical Model (OLD) Interactional/Socio-Political Model (NEW)
Disability is a deficiency or abnormality Disability is a difference
Being disabled is negative Being disabled, in itself, is neutral
Disability resides in the individual Disability derives from the interaction between
the individual and society
The remedy for disability-related problems
is cure or normalization of the individual
The remedy for disability-related problems is a
change in the interaction between the individual
and society
The agent of remedy is the professional The agent of remedy is the individual, an advocate,
or anyone who affects the arrangements between
the individual and society
Carol J. Gill, Chicago Institute of Disability Research


Embracing New Constructs

The interactional/socio-political model works extremely well with the principles of Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning. For the first time, true societal, environmental and learning barriers, which historically were not acknowledged by the old medical model, are now placed in their proper perspective. It is the environment as well as societal and institutional beliefs which limit our ability to be successful and spontaneous throughout our individual life journeys.

Examples of Universal Design (UD) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
UD UDL
Generally benefits more than one group
of users (e.g. the curb cut)
Increases accessibility to written materials for
multiple users through use of technology
Is usually invisible; is fully integrated into
the design
Identifies the essential course content
Provides choices in how people use the
environment
Uses a variety of instructional methods when
presenting materials
Makes getting around the environment
easily understood through communication
Provides clear expectations and feedback