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How is disability understood? An examination of sociological approaches.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date1/10/2004
JournalDisability and Society
Number of pages15
Original languageEnglish


This paper considers sociological understandings of what constitutes disability. Current meanings of disability in both disability studies and medical sociology are examined and compared, using selected articles from leading authors in each discipline as case studies. These disciplines are often represented as offering starkly contrasting approaches to disability, with their differences amounting to a disciplinary 'divide'. It is argued that, on closer inspection, common ground can be found between some writers in disability studies and medical sociology. It is suggested that this situation has arisen because, in disability studies, the social relational understanding of disability developed by Vic Finkelstein and Paul Hunt in the 1970s has been lost over time, overshadowed by the rise to prominence of its offspring: the social model of disability. The paper concludes with some reflections on the need to revive a social relational understanding of disability.

Bibliographic note

RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Social Work and Social Policy & Administration