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What is the social model of disability?

Animation What is the social model of disability?

The social model defines disability as ‘the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due physical or social barriers’.

From a social model perspective, the problems associated with disability are not caused by individuals but by a society that fails to take full account of their needs.

To understand this we need to distinguish between people with impairments and the disabling barriers that they face in society.

  • Disability is imposed on top of impairment by the way that these barriers limit people’s full participation and equality.
  • Disability affects everyone with physical, intellectual, sensory or psycho-emotional impairments, although they may each face different kinds of barriers.
  • Both impairment and disability are part of people’s lives – the social model focuses our attention on disability and on the things that can be changed in society.
  • Disability, in this sense, is a form of oppression that is institutionalised throughout society and disabled people can be considered as an oppressed social group.
  • To address the problem of disability we need to remove disabling barriers and create a more enabling and inclusive society.
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Social Model of Disability

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