What is the social model of disability?
The Medical Model
The medical model of disability says that disability comes from a person’s physical conditions which stop them living a ‘normal’ life.
The medical model looks at a disabled person as if there is something wrong with them.
The Social Model
Instead of this, the social model says that disability is the result of barriers in society that disable people with impairments.
Barriers in Society
Barriers can come from the physical environment, the way things are organised, people’s attitudes, and other things that exclude disabled people.
The Charity Model
Another unhelpful way to see disability is the charity model.
The charity model looks at disabled people with pity and feels sorry for them. The charity model is about better off people having to look after disabled people.
What words and phrases mean:
Impairment: Physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychological differences which mean a person can’t do certain things the same way that most people can do.
Society Needs to Change
The social model says that society needs to change instead of trying to ‘cure’ disabled people of their impairment.
The social model says that if society changed, then the barriers would be broken down and people with impairments would not be disabled by society.
Removing Physical Barriers
An example of a barrier is when there are steps to get into a shop.
A wheelchair user would be disabled because the steps stop them getting into the shop. If there was a ramp then the wheelchair user would not be disabled in that environment.
Having adjustments made to take account of impairments means that disabled people can participate in society.
Money to help disabled people with things like personal care or an adapted vehicle, is one way society can help remove barriers.
Another example would be a person with autism having a ‘buddy’ at work to help them understand workplace culture.
History of the Social Model
The social model of disability comes from the civil and human rights movements of the 1960s.
The Disability Discrimination Act defines disability using the medical model. However, it also says employers and service providers have to make “reasonable adjustments”, like in the social model.
The Government is moving to a new way of thinking about disability, called the bio-psycho-social model.
This model says disability is made up of 3 things: a person’s biological impairment, the way they think about their impairment (their psychology) and barriers in society.
What words and phrases mean:
Disability Discrimination Act: The law on discrimination against disabled people (now called the Equality Act).
Psychology: Everything to do with how a person thinks and feels.
The Government thinks some disabled people could do better in life by thinking more positively about their disability. They ignore the social barriers that cause disability.
Worries about Government Policy
Many people are worried that the Government is making it more difficult for disabled people to get support, by saying some deserve help but others are just scroungers who should think more positively.
Disabled people fought hard for the social model.
The social model has helped people to think more positively about disability and to treat disabled people with more respect.
X by X is very worried that the Government is working from a new model of disability that encourages bad attitudes towards disability.