The Sociological Theory and Service Development for People With Learning Disabilities

The significance of Marxism in the development of disability

Due to political disagreement on implications of such views as “functionalism and interactions to sociologists who were committed to the liberation of the disabled people, Marxism was embraced as a vital tool to explain the development of disability.” (Thompson 1998) “The Marxism theory explains capitalism; in which it is implied that with the abolition of capitalism the material basis” of disablement will disappear, in reference to Marx/Engel’s work on the conditions of working class in England. (Mead 1995) Engels argued that the advent of industrial revolution creates the working classes in the gigantic process of urbanisation, concentration and polarisation and with that follows the economic growth and increase in the demand for labour. In this writing Engel was exploring the conditions created in life and the resultant collective behaviour produced. His description was based on observations, printed evidences and other sources of information such as journals and commission reports. Engel cited a number of doctors who related a certain kinds of malformation and deformity to working conditions as a resultant physiological aspect of the factory system. “Engel states that he has seldom moved through Manchester without meeting three or four people disabled by factory processes.”(Thompson 1998) He asserts that the malformations look exactly alike and puts the blame on the factory working conditions. Engel condemns the factory process by referring to it as a state of things that permit so many impairments and mutilations to benefit a single class in the society. He writes that this factory working conditions deforms so many industrious working people due to injuries in the course of the work and condemns them into starvation. Through this, the Marxism’s primary concern regarding impairment is established as being as a result of capitalism.

“For Marxism, all human societies must produce their own material conditions of existence.” (Mead 1990) The commodity is the forms that the final product takes when it is organised through exchange. The commodity exhibits two aspects, first it be used to satisfy some human want by relying on its value. Secondly, it is used as a means of exchange with other commodities and therefore it is a value. Since the commodity is a value and utilizes value, Marx describes it as having a dual character. In view of this the definition of labour is drawn up as any activity of particular kind done with a definite aim. Therefore value useful labour is productive labour. This contrasts to the notion of pseudo labour which is fronted by mainly those who have undergone therapy and states that nothing can have value. In essence, it means that if a thing is regarded as useless, the labour it has is also useless. This is a condition of human existence that is free from all forms of society. It is an eternal natural need which guides the coexistence between man and nature. Marx proceeds to explore the aspect of labour which attributes its product with value. “He writes that any average magnitude is merely the average of a number of separate magnitudes all of the same kind, but differing in quantity and this phenomenon occurs in every industry.” (Mead 1990) Therefore in every industry an individual labourer differs from the average labourer and the differences when applied to mathematical model compensates each other ands vanishes and therefore number of labourers is determined by the socially required labour time.

“The labour time required producing any use-value under the conditions of production that are normal for a given society and has average degree of skill and intensity of labour as pertains to that society.”(Mead 1990) “This description serves to depict a normal worker in the capitalistic characteristics of wages, prices and profits. From this view a human being is depicted as a worker.” (Kahn 1992) Thus, Marx and Engels explanation of capitalism shows the way capitalism creates disabled people and depicts the disability as a negative aspect on a normal worker. Workers sell their labour to capitalists for a wage and disabled labour power has a specific linkage to disability in capitalism, therefore Marxism provides the powerful theoretical basis that leads to the understanding of the origin and nature of oppression of the disabled people. The utopian argument that progressive reduction of labour power due to social transition leads to reduced social significance of impairment as regards to labour power, Which is complemented by the technological advancement that equips impaired individuals allowing them to take part in the production process. Therefore results in the ending of disablement. This is a strong line of argument but it fails to provide a way of alleviating the problem for those impaired people that are unable to work. And therefore it does not provide a framework through which all the disabled people can be mobilized and united. This concept is accrued from the Marxism’s definition of human freedom which is seems to reduce the issue of human freedom to free time. Impaired people are still deprived by biology if not by society. Impairment puts a limit to creative sensuous practice and results in alienation. Malformation or impairment cannot be merely reduced to a factor of free time. It constitutes a restriction in relation the interaction between agent and life which creates social value. While the distinction between productive, reproductive and unproductive labour are crucial to the analysis of capitalism, rather than the use of Marxist utopia. The remedy for impairment which anchors on technological advancement only provides a small group of impaired people with means to achieve social integration. In essence, there should be a grand plan to provide a solution for all impaired individuals.

The emergence of Disability (The Social Model)

The most recognized organization that was instrumental in the efforts of bringing disability to the political fore was the “Disablement Income Group (DMG) formed in 1965.The group decided to pursue traditional pressure group activity in order to advance the social and economic conditions of disabled people.” (Barnes 2004) other individual groups started campaigns on specific issues which included “accessible housing, supported living in the community, and integrated education.” However, some disability activists, unhappy with the direction and pace of reforms for social change, began to consider the innovation of disability politics. One of the most notable political groups formed and controlled by physically disadvantaged people was the “Union of Physically Impaired against Segregation (UPIAS).” (Barnes 2004) The organization functioned through private correspondence where circulars were send to the members most of whom were living in residential institutions. The exchange yielded fruits by producing a policy statement and constitution in 1974. A couple of years later the organization expanded its scope of thinking in the fundamental principles of disability. “The orthodox view of disability, accepted by academic writers, policy makers and service providers stressed the problems caused by individual’s flawed mind or body.” (Barnes 2004) In absolute contrast the UPIAS focused “mainly on the methods through which the current organization of the society created and perpetuated diverse social barriers to the inclusion of the people with impairments.”(Kahn 1992) The UPIAS considered disability to be a creation of the society rather than a result of physical impairment which caused them to be unnecessarily secluded from full involvement in the society. “This created a contingent relationship in which people with impairments historically became a socially oppressed group, as has occurred with women, black and ethnic minorities, lesbians and gay men.” (Barnes 2004)

The ideas “advanced by the UPIAS were subsequently represented by Mike Oliver as the ‘social model’ of disability.” (Barnes 2004) The concerted efforts to front the social and environmental obstacles was opposite to the currently orthodoxy that depicted disability as a personal problem and the physically impaired as a needy lot that requires care. Oliver used the contemporary debates in the social science to advance the explanation of physical impairment as the fabrication of industrial capitalism. In addition, the social model included the possibility that a political action “might bring about the social changes necessary to overturn the social exclusion of disabled people.” Subsequently, the social model was used as a tool to train “workers and professionals and later became a principal mechanism for delivering Disability Equality Training.” (Barnes 2004) Both “Vic Finkelstein and mike Oliver insisted that the UPIAS’ social interpretation and the social model were not equivalent to the theory of disability, instead, they emphasized that the importance of the social model was primarily as a touristic device or an aid to understanding.” (Mead 1990) To them a good model could enable people to see things they could not comprehend because it offers different view points that are not available to us in the real life. And through this replications of reality insights which may otherwise have not been able to develop are created. In essence, they were encouraging other interpretations to be created so as to provide theoretical tools for conceptualization and illumination of the different aspects of disability. Most of the earlier attempts by British Writers to theorise the society’ role in disabling were mainly based on the Marxist views. “Therefore Finkelstein offered a historical materialist account of the emergence and reproduction of disability and helper/helped relations in his short monograph attitudes and disabled people.” (Barnes 2004) Paul Abberley was instrumental in the attempt to theorize disability based neo-Marxist ideas that were included cultural and ideological factors. Even when not adopting a Marxist analysis, “accounts immersed in social model thinking typically prioritized structural factors in explaining the exclusion of disabled people from the society.” (Burke 1995)

The UPIAS new definition of disability had a profound effect on the lager disabled people’s movement. The Social model has been adopted by several organisations that are operated by disabled people to champion for their rights across the UK. The perceived identification of barriers in the society that lead to the perpetuation of disabling was a significant stimulus that gave rise to concerted campaigns by the disabled. “A significant example in the recent past includes the struggle for ant legislation by the disabled people and to legalise and extend direct payments to enable disabled people to organise their own personal assistance support.” (Burke 1995)

This model was henceforth adopted by the “British council of organisations of disabled people (BCODP), now the British council of disabled people, which is the national Umbrella for organisations controlled and run by disabled people.” (Barnes, 2004) As a result of the fierce backing, the social model acquired an unequivocal focus that was a strong demand for the rights of the disabled people. As put forward by one of the disabled people, the social model provided them with the words to describe the inequality they were subjected to. “It separated out the disabling barriers from the impairment (not being able to work or having difficult learning).” (Barnes 2004) Due to the reason that the social model separated the two it enabled them to focus on exactly what it is which denied them their human and civil rights and what action were they to take.

The Impact of the Educational Needs and Disability Act, 2001

The act was meant to make significant changes and create equal opportunities in education to all regardless of the physical state. “The act affects all the learning institutions from nurseries to colleges including independent and non-maintained special schools, FE colleges, HE and youth services.” (SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS AND DISABILITY ACT 2001, 2004)

Special Educational Needs

This part of the Act came into force in January 2002 encompassing the following:

  • The Act isolated efficient education and an education suitable to meet the needs of the child from Section 316 of the 1996 Education Act. These ambiguous sections were brought into play to block children who are disabled from normal schools sending them to specialized institutions against the wishes of their guardians. This was instituted 2002 January. The regulation locks up the scope under which incompatibility rhymes with efficient education of normal children. It presents examples of practical measures teaching institutions are to take in the inclusion of impaired children to iron out the incompatibility problem. This has led to the removal of the social barriers that depicted people physical deformities as special cases and allowed for proper integration into society through learning institutions.
  • Requires schools to notify parents when they make special educational provision as they have recognized their child as having special education needs. This is has made the exercise an all inclusive venture that for the purpose of proper inclusion.
  • Permits schools to request a statutory assessment in the same way that parents can. This has enabled parents and schools to read from the same script and has impacted positively by optimizing the provision of all the required support for the children with disabilities.
  • Makes changes in the activities for amendments to statements; It has led to flexibility in the making of the necessary changes in the best interest of the people with disabilities.
  • Requires LEAs to provide and advertise parent partnership services; It has impacted positively by facilitating proper service delivery through selection of the best service providers. Consequently, it has made it easy to monitor the progress of the disabled children.
  • Requires LEAs to make arrangements for resolution disagreements between parents and schools and between parents and the LEA; This has created a platform for consensus building on outstanding issues that cold have otherwise derailed the noble integration course.
  • It Hastens arrangements for appeals to the Tribunal, including setting time limits for the implementation of the decisions of the Tribunal. It has created a time frame for the legal proceedings that may arise in the cause of implementation of the act and has also provided a suitable channel through which all disputes can be resolved.

Impairment Discrimination in learning institution

The Discrimination bylaw of the year 1995 takes care of many services.

Unfortunately they don’t take account of education. The act intends to ensure that discrimination against impaired children does not happen in teaching institutions. This section modified the 1994 act is preventive in functionality coming into play in 2003.

Responsibility and proprietorship of institutions

Responsibilities in treating impaired students are embraced during admission, learning and other educational services. There is one area which can be validated that is the methods of selection. In the measurement of sensible alterations factors to be followed are: 1. Requirements to conserve educational, extra curriculum activities and academic benchmarks 2. Monetary funding made available to the bodies 3. Management of the steps 4. Extents for taking the specific steps are taken. 5. The degree to which aids and services will be availed to impair children at institutions Part IV of 1995 laws or parts 61-66G of the Education law Act. 6. Wellbeing and security need. 7. The attention of other children and people who may be enrolled to the school as students.

These have the prospect to cancel out the consequences of the law and only hearings will resolve what is practical. On the other hand the main laws are made to precede things from the present discriminatory situation. Additionally learning institutions must function in a good practice representation as those executing equality. This comprises of the review on available guiding principles & exercise for disability discrimination. The exercise must commence in all schools.

Impairment discrimination law has made it unlawful to carry out the practice in anyway. This has reportedly decreased stigma faced by impaired persons through discrimination.

Disability and DDA

Disability is an impairment of either the brain or limps on a person’s body. This usually has long-standing undesirable effects on the capacity to do normal activities.

To come under the law, an individual should be significantly affected by the impairment in of these ways: Movement, co-ordination, verbal communication, sight, hearing, capability to learn, memorise, comprehend, risk awareness and capability to notice danger.


Social theory is vital for the development of mechanisms for proper social integration of the disabled individuals. Marxism and the social model describe the emergence of disability in the society. The legislation crafted is based on this theory to provide a framework through which the social injustices can be tackled.

The theory of Marx explains capitalism; it asserts that with the abolition of capitalism material basis may just disappear. The theory was written by Marx and Engel who based their argument on the working class of England. Engel observed that with the advent of industrial revolution working classes were created, consequently leading to urbanisation. According to Marxism, all human societies produce there materials conditions for their livelihood. Marxism tries to explain that the social oppression of the disabled individuals is firmly facilitated by capitalism.

In the social model of emergence of disability, it is observed that the organization of the society has created and perpetuated diverse social barriers to people with disabilities. The social model fronted the view that the disability as a personal problem and the physically impaired as a needy lot that requires care. It provided the impaired with a basis to describe the injustices they were being subjected to. The social model relies on the capitalism that is fronted by Marx’s theory. The production processes in the society are indeed the factors that constitute the backbone of social injustice the physically impaired are subjected to.

The Educational needs and Disability Act, 2001 was crafted for the purpose of creating equal opportunities for all the members of the society regardless of their physical state.

Reference list

Barnes, C., (2004) Implementing the Socal Model. Leeds, The disability press.

Burke, J., &Dairymple,B., (1995) Anti-Oppressive Practice-Social care and the Law. Buckingham, Open Univerity Press.

Kahn, V., n(1992) Child pschology and Psychiatry and associated disciplines. London, w.w. norton and company.

Mead, S., (1990) Social structures and implications. New York, The Berkely Publishing group.


Thompson, N., (1998) Promoting Equality. London, Macmilan Press Limited.