Disability In Society


Disability has many different definitions. “Models of Disability” are different ways that people think about disability. Understanding Models can help us understand how and why people think about disability the way they do.

1. Help the Handicapped is a website by disabled artist Ju Gosling. It gives a brief description of the administrative, medical, charity, and social models of disability with pictures representing each model.

2. The Four Models is a section of an online manual made by Handicap International. It includes charts and cartoons explaining different models of disability. They explain why society must be changed, not the individual’s disability.

3. Connection for Community Leadership is a program for people with disabilities in Michigan. On their website, they give a very thorough description of nine different models of disability.

4. Disability History Month Video is a youtube video made by the Disabled Young People’s Collective. It covers things like disability stereotypes, history, and facts.

5. The Hero / Tragic Stereotype of Disability is a lecture by Gary Karp, a national speaker. In it, he talks about the dangers of being seen as an inspiration for living with a disability.


1. Education for Disability and Gender Equity has a great, short online curriculum that discusses disability stereotypes, disability in the media, and disability culture. It includes online activities about disability.

2. The Kids Are All Right is a 30 minute documentary about the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) Labor Day telethon and the disability activism that has been done against it. It is a great introduction to the harmful nature of pity.

3. Too Late to Die Young is a book by Harriet McBryde Johnson that every one interested in disability should read. It tells a lifetime of stories about Harriet, a Southern woman with a physical disability who did things like protest the MDA Telethon and debate against Peter Singer, a person famous for thinking people like Harriet should not exist. You can buy it online for about $13.


1. Against Their Will is a multimedia report by The Winston-Salem Journal. It chronicled the history of North Carolina’s sterilization program. The report includes video, pictures, and text. It is an informative introduction to eugenics. [Sterilization means taking away someone’s physical ability to have babies. Eugenics is a movement that works to get rid of people with “bad” genes.]

2. Disabled Women and Reproductive Justice is an article on The Pro-Choice Public Education Project’s website. It talks about different ways that science has been used to control disabled women. It is a good explanation of how disability connects with reproductive justice issues.

3. Generations Ahead is an organization that looks at how genetic technologies [sciences that study inherited traits- impact people. They focus on disability, race, gender and sexuality.

4. Musem of disAbility’s Eugenic Timeline is an has an online timeline of eugenic history. In it, they cover how the eugenics movement became powerful over the last two hundred years.

5. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a book by Anne Fadiman about a Hmong refugee family’s clash with western medicine being forced on them. It shows the way people of color are looked down on if they refuse the medical establishment. It is a good read. You can buy it online for $9.

6. Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics is a book by Melinda Tankard. It tells the story of pregnant women with disabilities (or whose babies had disabilities) and their experience with the medical establishment. You can buy this online for $10.

7. Deaf Eugenics is a speech by Edward Black, author of the War Against the Weak. He gave it at the California Capital when Deaf people were rallying against audism. [Audism is prejudice against the Deaf in favor of hearing people.] The speech tells of how eugenics gained power in the United States and what will happen if we do not stop it.


1. Taxi Driver Training Pack is an online kit by the Democracy Disability and Society Group, a UK disability group. They have a cartoon that explains what the social model is and why it is important.

2. The Disability Pride Parade in Chicago has an essay on their website outlining the power in people with disabilities redefining what disability means through community and pride. They compare this to other pride movements (e.g. Black Pride).

3.  Medical Model v Social Model is a document made by Kids as Self Advocates. They use it in workshops to talk about what the medical and social model of disability are.


Neurodiversity is the idea that all types of thinking should be accepted as part of the beauty of human diversity. This is rooted in the idea that disabilities like Autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities are not “bad” but just another form of difference. It says the way all people think should be celebrated. It says people should not be forced into boxes that say you should think a certain way.

1. Don’t Mourn for Us is an essay put out by Jim Sinclair, an elder in the Autistic Culture movement. The essay is well-known and paved the way for Neurodiversity to grow. Jim wrote it as a letter to parents of autistics and asks them to understand autism as difference to be celebrated, not something to be mourned.

2. Ventura33’s Neurodiversity Page is a collection of neurodiversity-themed fanfiction [stories written by fans about characters from a book, movie or comic.] They have a great explanation of neurodiversity and the stories are fun to read.