April 2019

On 26th February, 2019, the Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University conducted a session on Disability Awareness to make MBA students understand about disability and how they can take steps to create a better working environment.

Meagan Orsag and Joe Hartsoe started the session with the history of disability legislation in the US and then the definition of “disability”. The instructors described two models of viewing disability – the medical model and the social model.

In the medical model, people consider disability largely as a pathology, deficit, or impairment in and organic to a person that limits what he or she can do. All the emphasis is put on treating or curing the disability itself.

While the social model views disability more as a matter of idea, environment and functioning than in terms of disease and pathology. Thus, the emphasis is placed on removing environmental barriers to participation and change negative or restrictive attitudes towards disability.

Having spent my childhood in India, I realized how many Asian countries all the time follow the medical model of disability, which unfortunately doesn’t facilitate people battling with this issue. When you follow a medical model, you will always tend to view the person with a problem, instead of thinking about changing the workplace to make it easier for people with disability. Even using names such as “specially abled” doesn’t help the cause of such people. Medical model should be limited to the healthcare industry and the government.

Corporations and other workplaces should encourage following the social model of disability. Under such approach, one should always think whether the architecture, work process, meeting rooms, etc. are conducive to the people facing disability. It is important to treat such people just as we treat other normal human beings and avoid over attention or labelling them such as epileptics, schizophrenics, etc. It is also essential to always ask before helping a person and not presume that the person needs help. The point is not to be so much over focussed on helping people with disability that they start feeling awkward.

Rather think about the improvements that can be done in a workplace. If there is a person who needs wheelchair, think how you can make better doors, desks, and organize necessary tools, that won’t inhibit person’s work.

At the end, we watched a video that summarized the session. Here’s a link to a Disability Sensitivity training video.


--- Jay Jani
Jay Jani is a Masters student attending Mays Business School

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