What Is The Social Model Of Disability?
People can be limited physically and mentally, and in ways to do with the emotions and the senses. These limitations can be described as ‘disabilities’. Being shut out from society by, for example, being discriminated against, is a problem that disabled people often have. There are different explanations behind the difficulties that disabled people face because of their environments. Two of the most common explanations are the ‘medical’ and ‘social’ models of disability. The social model of disability was developed by disabled people in response to the medical model of disability. Importantly, not every disabled person wants to use the social model of disability to describe their disability.
The medical model
According to the medical model of disability, the reason behind disabled people not being able to take part in society fully is their disabilities. This model argues that their disability controls what they are able to do, and their disability is not a problem that involves anybody else. Therefore, the medical model insists that it is the disabled person who should try to overcome their disability. The disabled body and mind are seen by the medical model as things to be treated and altered so that they are like the non-disabled body and mind.
The social model
The social model of disability believes that disabled people are disabled not by their medical conditions, but by barriers in society stopping them from taking part in everyday life. It argues that society is built to meet the needs of the majority of people who are not disabled. According to the social model, society can minimize and hopefully remove these barriers, so that disabled people can be empowered. Changes that society might make to include disabled people could be:
- Changes to attitudes. The social model would suggest that society should stop maintaining fear, hatred, and ignorance towards disabled people. An example of an ignorant attitude held towards disabled people might be the assumption that disabled people cannot do certain things, like work, live independently, have children, or have sex.
- Improved practices. A company could allow disabled employees to have more flexible hours, including being able to take time off to attend medical appointments.
- Modified environment. In line with the social model of disability, a building might have wheelchair ramps, elevators, and disabled toilets to make it accessible for people with physical disabilities.
Applying the social model
Sometimes people are more ready to make adaptations for those with visible disabilities compared to those with hidden, or poorly understood disabilities. The social model of disability asserts that it is the person with the disability who knows best about their requirements. This model concentrates on a person’s needs instead of their diagnosis.
The social model of disability is valuable because it enables people to see beyond barriers to disabled people, and can thus change people’s ideas about disabled people’s capabilities. It hopefully hints that disabled and non-disabled people can have equal opportunities and standards of life.