The one with the Social Model

Ann Chambers (2015) Medical and Social Models of Disability, available at (accessed: 2nd December 2015)
Video trimmed down via TubeChop

The Outline

The social model model draws on the idea that it is society that disables people, through designing everything to meet the needs of the majority of people who are not disabled. There is a recognition within the social model that there is a great deal that society can do to reduce, and ultimately remove, some of these disabling barriers, and that this task is the responsibility of society, rather than the disabled person.

The Implications

The social model is more inclusive in approach. There is much active thought given to how disabled people can participate in activities on an equal footing with non-disabled people. Certain adjustments are made, even if this costs time or money, to ensure that disabled people are not excluded. The organiser of the event or activity is accessible to all. The obsession with finding medically based cures, distracts us from looking at causes of either impairment or disablement. In a worldwide sense, many impairments are created by oppressive systems - hunger, lack of clean water, exploitation of labour, lack of safety, child abuse and wars. Businesses, governments and working environments try to follow the outlines of the social model, to be as inclusive as possible, however this is not always achieved. Click on 'governments' to see more information about current UK Government policies on the Social Model!


Some examples of this are as follows:
  • a course leader who meets with a visually impaired member of the group before the beginning of a course to find out how hand-outs can be adapted so that the student can read them
  • a member of staff who makes PowerPoint presentations available on NOW to all members of the group before a lecture. This allows dyslexic students to look up unfamiliar terminology before the lecture, and gives them an idea of the structure that will be followed
  • a Students’ Union society that consults with disabled members before organising an event in order to make sure that the venue is accessible


Many people are willing to adopt the social model and to make adjustments for those who have a visible disability. However, they are not as accommodating with students who have a hidden disability, or a disability that is not clearly understood - ranging from mental illness, chronic pain, fatigue or dizziness. An important principle of the social model is that the individual is the expert on their requirements in a particular situation, and that this should be respected, regardless of whether the disability is obvious or not.

You got this too? Onto the interactive slides.

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