When we talk about people with disabilities, there are two kinds of approaches (also called models).
It is characteristic of the medical approach to focus on the body and its deficiencies rather than the abilities and competencies of the person. The physical disability is approached as an illness which needs a therapy. Hence the attitude toward the person is an attitude toward a patient, an invalid in the literal sense of the word. This model is guided by the idea that it is impossible for people with disabilities to take part fully in social life because of their ‘deficiency’, and not that the environment (architectural and cultural) is hostile.
Thankfully, the medical approach is challenged by the social one. The idea here is that the problems experienced by people with disabilities can come not so much from their conditions, as from the environment, which is not hospitable enough toward difference: from the barriers in society – barriers which are both physical (inaccessible public transport, pavements, steps, etc) and social (prejudice, stereotypes, etc). According to the social approach, the focus should be not on the person’s disability but on their resources – what they can and know how to do. There are economic reasons for this beyond the moral ones – it is more profitable to invest in potential, thus compensating for limitations, instead of financing limitations without using possibilities.