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.
In contrast the medical model of disability says that disability is caused by not having a ‘normal’ body that functions in a ‘normal’ way. This idea suggests that disabled people cannot engage in society and that their disability must be ﬁxed in order to live a fulﬁlling life.
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.
People with impairments are disabled by the fact that they are excluded from participation within the mainstream of society as a result of physical, organisational and attitudinal barriers.
These barriers prevent them from gaining equal access to information, education, employment, public transport, housing and social/recreational opportunities.