Sociological Perspectives on Disability
How do sociologists view disability? Those using the functionalist framework often apply Parsons's sick role model, which is referred to as the medical model of disability. According to the medical model. people with disabilities become, in effect, chronic patients under the supervision of doctors and other medical personnel, subject to a doctor's orders or a program's rules, and not to their own judgment (Shapiro, 1993). From this perspective, disability is deviance . The deviance framework is also apparent in some symbolic interventionist perspectives. According to Cymbeline internationalists, people with a disability experience.
ambiguity because many people equate disability with deviance (Murphy et al., 1988). By labeling individuals with a disability as "deviant," other people can avoid them or treat them as outsiders. Society marginalizes people with a disability because they have lost old roles and statuses and are labeled as "disabled" person According to the sociologist Eliot Freidson (1965). how the people are labeled results from three factors: (1) their degree of responsibility for their impairment, (2) the apparent seriousness of their condition, and (3) the perceived legitimacy of the condition. Freidson concluded that the definitions of and expectations for people with a disability arc socially constructed factors. Finally. from a conflict perspective, persons with a disability arc members of a subordinate group in conflict with persons in positions of power in the government. in the health care industry. and in the rehabilitation business, all of whom are trying to control their destinies (Albrecht. 1992). Those ill positions of power' have created policies and artificial barriers that keep people with disabilities in a subservient position (Asch, 1986; Hahn. 19B7). Moreover. iu capitalist economy, disabilities are big business. When.people with disabilities are defined as a social problem and public funds arc spent to purchase goods and services for them, rehabilitation becomes a commodity that can be bought and sold by the medical-industrial complex (Albrecht. 1992). From this perspective, persons with a disability are objectified. They have an economic value as consumers of goods and services that will allegedly make them "better" people. Many.persons with a disability endure the same struggle for resources faced hy people of color, women. and older persons. Individuals who hold more than one of these ascribed statuses, combined with experiencing disability. are doubly or triply oppressed by capitalism.