The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people. When barriers are removed, disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives.
Disabled people developed the social model of disability because the traditional medical model did not explain their personal experience of disability or help to develop more inclusive ways of living.
(An impairment is defined as the limitation of a person’s physical, mental or sensory function on a long-term basis.)
Barriers are not just physical. Attitudes found in society, based on prejudice or stereotype (also called disablism), also disable people from having equal opportunities to be part of society.
The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organised. The medical model of disability says people are disabled by their impairments or differences.
Under the medical model, these impairments or differences should be ‘fixed’ or changed by medical and other treatments, even when the impairment or difference does not cause pain or illness.
The medical model looks at what is ‘wrong’ with the person and not what the person needs. It creates low expectations and leads to people losing independence, choice and control in their own lives.