Areheart on the Medical Model of Disability
In this Article, I analyze how federal courts' interpretations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") have presented a "Goldilocks" dilemma for disabled individuals. In particular, I examine how a typical ADA plaintiff is found either "not disabled enough" to warrant the protections of the ADA or "too disabled" to be a "qualified individual" for the respective job. The result is that very few plaintiffs are disabled "just right." Such a result is at odds with the original intent of the ADA.
Concern over the ADA could hardly be more timely. Just last fall, in September of 2006, bipartisan legislation based on the National Council on Disability's recommendations was introduced in the House of Representatives. It was entitled the "Americans with Disabilities Act Restoration Act of 2006," but failed to make any progress before the session ended and the bill was cleared from the books. However, a new Congress provides new hope for the passage of such a bill.
After explicating the two dominant theoretical models for understanding disability - the medical and social models of disability - I examine how most of the problems with how disability is understood and interpreted stem from the entrenchment of the medical model of disability. I explain how representations in the media and federal court decisions have underscored a "medicalized" view of disability. Moreover, I document how such a view has fostered misperceptions and false stereotypes concerning those with disabilities.
Finally, I advocate that Congress pass an ADA Restoration Act similar to the one proposed last fall. I explain how this Act would overhaul the ADA and provide a compelling solution that has not yet received much scholarly examination. I also recommend that the EEOC draft reports to document systemic disability discrimination toward certain groups.