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Social Model

The Social Model explains the real experience of disabled people.

The Social Model explains that we (people who have impairments) are disabled people because we face barriers, fewer opportunities, discrimination and prejudice in society.

Under the Social Model, impairment and disability are not the same.

‘Impairment’ is when part of a person’s body or mind does not work, or works differently to what is considered ‘normal’ by society.

‘Disability’ is the barriers, discrimination and prejudice disabled people face.  It is disability which makes us disabled people – not our impairments.

Some examples of ‘disability’ or barriers can be:

  • Negative attitudes towards disabled people.  For example, a café or shop owner not wanting a disabled person in their café or shop.
  • Many buildings still not being accessible, for example, having steps with no ramp or lift, no tactile indication of stairs, etc.
  • Lack of knowledge and support for alternative ways of communication, for example British Sign Language, Facilitated Communication, etc.
  • Information not being provided in a variety of formats, such as audio, symbols, Braille, BSL, large print.
  • Schools and colleges not being open to other than one way of learning.

These are only a few examples of barriers disabled people face.

The Social Model of disability moves the focus away from the individual person to the barriers disabled people face, so everyone can work towards removing barriers, not changing the person.

It is not our bodies or minds which ‘disable’ us, it is society.

For the Social Model in words and pictures, see:

Social Model pictures and words pdf