19.1.1  The charity model

The charity model of disability is a traditional way of viewing persons with disabilities as being dependent and helpless. In this model, people with disabilities are seen as:

  • Objects of charity
  • Having nothing to give, only to receive
  • Being inherently poor, needy and fully dependent on charity or welfare for their survival.

Persons with disabilities is generally considered to be the term most consistent with the language used by the United Nations (UN).

The charity model is often related to traditional cultural and religious beliefs and practices such as the giving of alms. The problem with such practices is that they reinforce the idea that people with disabilities are helpless recipients of ‘charity’ from a ‘caring’ society, rather than subjects with rights.

  • Can you think of people in your community who see disability in terms of the charity model? How would you try to change their views?

  • Some of the people in your community who offer alms to people with disabilities (in the form of money, clothes, food, etc.) may think about disability in terms of the charity model. You can discuss this with them sensitively, asking if they have considered that other forms of assistance, such as supporting people with disabilities in demanding better social provision might be more effective in the longer term.

19.1  Models of disability

19.1.2  The medical model