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Beyond the Medical Model? Disability, Formal Justice, and the Exception for the "Profoundly Impaired"

The formal justice model proposed by Anita Silvers in Disability, Discrimination, and Difference emphasizes the social model of disability and the need for full equality of opportunity, and it suggests that a distributive model of justice that gives special benefits to individuals with disabilities is self-defeating. Yet in that work, Silvers allows an exception for the "profoundly impaired." In this paper, I show how the formal justice theory falls short when it comes to defining and dealing with "profoundly impaired" individuals and explore the ways in which making the exception raises serious theoretical concerns for the grounding of the formal justice model.