What’s the social model of disability?

People with Disability Australia uses the social model of disability to talk about disability, and people with disability.

In this model, disability is the result of the interaction between people with impairments and an environment filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers. The social model has the implication that the physical, attitudinal, communication and social environment must change to enable people living with impairments to participate in society on an equal basis with others.

The social model contrasts with the medical model of disability, where disability is seen to be a problem of the individual. From the medical model, a person with disability is in need of being fixed or cured. From this point of view, disability is a tragedy and people with disability are to be pitied. The medical model of disability is all about what a person cannot do and cannot be.

The social model does not deny the reality of impairment nor its impact on the individual.  However, it does challenge the physical, attitudinal, communication and social environment to accommodate those impairments.

The social model seeks to change society in order to accommodate people living with impairment; it does not seek to change persons with impairment to accommodate society. It supports the view that people with disability have a right to be fully participating citizens on an equal basis with others.

Learn more about the Social Model here – including an Auslan video.

Or go to the next part of the Language Guide: Identity-first vs Person-first language