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Social Model



Social Model of Disability


WNDiS strongly believes in the Social Model of Disability as a positive way of overcoming barriers and discrimination that disabled people face.



Disabled People


This includes people with physical impairments, sensory impairments (deaf people, blind people), chronic illness or health issues including HIV and AIDS; all degrees of learning difficulties and emotional and behavioural problems. It also includes people with hidden impairments such as epilepsy, diabetes, sickle cell anaemia, specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, speech and language impairments, children labelled as delicate, people who identify as being disfigured, people of diminutive stature and people with mental distress. All are excluded by barriers that society puts in our way. These can be actual physical barriers (which are the easiest to deal with) or barriers in the attitude that others have towards us (these are harder to change).





Is the loss or limitation of physical, mental or sensory function on a long term, or permanent basis.





This is the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due to physical and social barriers.


The Social Model of Disability.


This way of looking at disability was developed by the disability movement who believe that it is not the person’s impairment that is the problem but the way that society treats disabled people and the barriers put in their way. Just because a person has an impairment does not make them less of a human being.


·                    Looking at the barriers disabled people face is more solvable than looking for a cure. For example: if a person with mobility problems has trouble walking up the stairs the medical model would look at physiotherapy and equipment to help them walk up them. The Social Model however would argue that there should be a lift or ramp instead. Not only will this help the disabled person but it will also help parents with prams and buggies.

·                    Looking at disability in this way makes disabled people feel good about themselves and empowers them to fight for their human rights.

·                    There is more choice and control for the disabled person in all aspects of their lives

·                    The disabled person would work with medical and other professionals rather than be controlled by them.



The Medical Model of Disability


This tends to be the traditional way of looking at disability. Unlike the Social Model it looks at the disabled person as being the problem.


·                    The disabled person tends to feel bad about themselves and feels dependent on others.

·                    The power to change the disabled person’s life lies within the medical and associated professions through cures, science and “normalisation”.

·                    The person is made to fit in. If this is not possible then they could find themselves in some special institution or end up lonely at home where only their basic needs are met.

·                    There is a lack of choice and control.

·                    Disabled people are feared, talked down to or pitied.

·                    Usually the impairment is focused on rather than the needs of the person.

·                    Other people’s assessments of the disabled person (carried out by a non-disabled person) are used to decide where they live, what support is given, their employment opportunities, whether or not they can work.

·                    Tests during pregnancy can decide whether the person should be born.



Source: (adapted from) Disability Equality in Education November 2002



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