The Social Model of Disability

The social model of disability explains the disadvantage experienced by disabled people in terms of  the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment *.  It is barriers that are erected by society that prevent disabled people participating fully in society. The social model looks at ways of removing the barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people.

Disabled people developed the social model of disability as an alternative to the medical model which does not reflect personal experience of disability, challenge inequality or help to develop more inclusive ways of living. When barriers are removed, disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their lives.   This differs from the medical model which looks at the disadvantage disabled people face in terms their impairments or medical conditions.

*An impairment is defined as the limitation of a person’s physical, mental or sensory function on a long-term basis.