The Social Model of Disability and Types of Disability Models

Social movement

Disabled people have created an innovative social movement towards the twentieth century. They are dynamically fighting against social separation, discrimination, and oppression. The social movement has effectively politicized the spatial and collective surroundings or environments. In addition, the movement has attracted people’s interest in the techniques that are prevailing ableist standards and practical works. Moreover, the movement is committed to secure the elimination of the socio-spatial hindrances that rebuff disabled people full nationality or citizenship Shakespeare & Watson 2). The terms disability and impairment have a different meanings. Impairment refers to the serviceable restrictions of individuals’ minds and bodies while disability refers to the disabling hindrances of uneven approach and negative thoughts. A rearrangement of the disability or impairment difference would contribute to the growth and development of impairment sociology. This may be attained by accepting the concept that impairment is social while disability is personified or embodied (Shakespeare & Watson 5).

Types of disability models

There are two major types of disability models; medical and social models. The medical model of disability views the problem of disability to be located in a person, meaning that an individual is disabled because of his or her personal impairments. Hence she or he needs medical checks up or interventions to give the personal skills that will help him or her adapt normally to society. This paper will critically analyze the social model of disability in society with an illustration of unintentional results of downplaying the impact of impairment on daily life. The paper will further examine the social models for comprehending the procedures of cultural image and objectification. The sociology discipline does not consistently focus on disability as a course that requires serious assessment on its own level. For instance, Turner as cited by Paterson & Hughes (599), says that a phenomenology/philosophy or embodiment of the body is of great significance because they offer the sociologists with complicated and receptive view on aspects like disability, pain and death. A model is a structure of comprehending information (Paterson & Hughes 599).

Social model of disability

The social model of disability was formed by the disabled people themselves. It was established due to the reaction of the society to the disabled people and their encounter or experience of wellbeing and health structure that made them feel socially separated and demoralized. The social model of disability focuses on two major areas. Firstly, it identifies the main problem of the disability in a person. Secondly, it locates the factors that contribute to the occurrence of the problem resulting from psychological losses or functional limitations that are perceived as a result of disability. The establishment of the model by the disabled individuals themselves is a clear indication of a denunciation or rejection by the society (Oliver 3).

Denial of chances, independence and the limitation of choice and lack of power over the support structures in disabled people’s lives made them to raise several queries on the existing medical model. Therefore, they decided to form the social model of disability. The social model disability suggests that negative thoughts or attitudes, systematic hindrances/barriers and separation by the society are the eventual factors that determine the person to called disabled in a certain society. The model identifies that though some people have cognitive, mental, physical or psychological impairments that can lead to a person functional limitation, at times they do not lead to disability. However, the social model of disability does not reject the concept that some differences can lead to functional constraint or impairments but instead the differences are not the major cause of people being separated or excluded in the society (Garland 13-15).

According to the social model of disability, individuals are disabled or handicapped because of the existing barriers in a society that does not cater for the needs of the people. Such barriers are of several categories that include; organizational, physical and personal features or aspects of a society. For example, staircases that do not have lifts, information written in small print or negative attitude of other people towards disabled people. All these could be termed as disabling barriers existing in the society. The model perceives disabled people having similar needs, desires and ambitions as the non-disabled individuals. Therefore, disabled people ought to be given an opportunity to enjoy the similar choices and freedoms as the non-disabled individuals. Moreover, they should be permitted equivalent responsibilities and rights in making decisions in life. Hence disability should not be viewed as an issue that stir up pity or require of a treatment but rather it should perceived as a positive asset (Carson 4).

Social model of disability has led to the understanding of disability as an uneven association in a society that the needs or requirements of disabled people are mostly offered little or no deliberation. Disabled people are exempted from taking part in the mainstream or normal activities in the society due to organizational, attitudinal and physical hindrances or barriers. The consequence of such separation is that the societal barriers hinder them from obtaining similar access to education, information, housing, recreational and public transport. The good thing is that, the present/recent developments support inclusion of disabled people in the mainstream of the society. Examples of such developments include equivalent opportunity policies, anti-discrimination legislation and positive action programmes. These developments have been established since it is clearly known that disabled people are unjustly and unreasonably prevented or restricted from participating fully in major activities within the society that non-disabled individuals take for granted (Carson 8-11). For instance a study done shows that the rate of employment in Scotland for disabled people against those who are non-disabled is 47 percent against 82 percent respectively. This implies that the inability to earn a good living for the disabled individuals can increase due to some disabling barriers like negative thoughts or attitudes from their employees or inaccessibility to public transport. Therefore, if disabled people are to be included in the mainstream of the society, which is part of their human and civil rights, the organization of the society need to be altered (Davis 69).

Bearing in mind that social model of disability is about the barriers faced by the disabled people, by offering applicable and satisfactory adjustments/improvement, these barriers can be eliminated and as a result have a positive impact on individuals’ lives. This gives the expectation that injustice or discrimination can be avoided by eliminating these barriers with the help of the non-disabled individuals in the society. In addition, it is essential to identify the significant role, which language or words have had in strengthening the people’s perception about the disabled people. The same way individuals from various cultural settings have recognized the influence that language or words have had in the backing up of racism and sexism, disabled people have become more receptive or sensitive to the way words are responsible for prejudiced behavior and language (Garland par.2). Currently, social model of disability has become famous especially among the disabled people. With the help of several human and civil rights agencies or groups, most of the disabling barriers that came up as a result of medical model have been reduced though more effort is needed to totally eradicate them.


In summary, disability is a specific type of social isolation and oppression of the disabled people and it emphasis on the disabling barriers like organizational, attitudinal and environmental. These barriers hinder disabled people from getting equivalent access to employment, education, public transport, social/leisure and housing opportunities that are enjoyed by non-disabled individuals. Therefore, instead of implementing medical treatment or rehabilitation, the best strategy that can be used is social change including the transformation of the entire society. Hence disabled people do not need to change but rather the society need to change.

Works cited

Carson, Grant. Social Model of Disability. Scottish Accessible Information Forum. 2009. Web.

Davis, Ken. The Social Model of Disability – Setting the terms of a new debate, the Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People. 1996.

Garland, Rosemarie. Introduction: From Wonder to Error-a Genealogy of Freak Discourse in Modernity. In Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body, New York: New York University Press, 1996.

Garland, Rosemarie. Staring: How we look. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Oliver, Mike. The individual and social models of disability. 1990. Web.

Paterson, Kevin & Hughes, Bill. Disability Studies and Phenomenology. The carnal politics of everyday life in Disability and Society,14 ( 5): 597-610. 1999.

Shakespeare, Tom & Watson, Nicholas. The Body Line Controversy: a new direction for disability studies? Disability Studies Seminar, Hull, 1995.

Shakespeare, Tom & Watson, Nicholas. The social model of disability: an outdated ideology? Research in Social Science and Disability, 2: 9-28. 2002. Web.

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