The social model has been developed by disabled people in response to the medical model and the impact it has had on their lives.
Under the social model, disability is caused by the society in which we live and is not the ‘fault’ of an individual disabled person, or an inevitable consequence of their limitations. Disability is the product of the physical, organisational and attitudinal barriers present within society, which lead to discrimination. The removal of discrimination requires a change of approach and thinking in the way in which society is organised.
The social model takes account of disabled people as part of our economic, environmental and cultural society. The barriers that prevent any individual playing a part in society are the problem, not the individual. Barriers still exist in education, information and communication systems, working environments, health and social support services, transport, housing, public buildings and amenities. The devaluing of disabled people through negative images in the media – films, television and newspapers – also act as a barrier.
The social model has been developed with the aim of removing barriers so that disabled people have the same opportunity as everyone else to determine their own life styles.
A simple example is that of a wheelchair user who has a mobility impairment. He is not actually disabled in an environment where he can use public transport and gain full access to buildings and their facilities in the same way that someone without his impairment would do.
The social model of disability has fundamentally changed the way in which disability is regarded and has had a major impact on anti-discriminatory legislation. However, some disabled people and academics are involved in a re-evaluation of the social model and they argue that the time has come to move beyond this basic position.
This DEMOS activity invites you to re-word questions to match a social rather than a medical model.