Social Model of Disability

What do we actually mean by ‘disabled’?
Why do we say ‘disability’ and ‘disabled’ instead of ‘diffability’, ‘differently-abled’?
What are disabling barriers?

At Access Enable 1st our work is is based upon the “Social Model of Disability”.


The Social Model states that a person isn’t ‘disabled’ because of their impairment, health condition, or the ways in which they may be different from the ‘norm’; but it’s the physical and attitudinal barriers in society – prejudice, lack of access adjustments and systemic exclusion, that disable people.

The Social Model was developed by disabled people to identify and take action against discrimination. Before his the traditional Medical Model, presents disability as an individual, medical ‘problem’, which focused on what a person can’t do because of their particular physical, neurological or psychological condition.

Image result for social model of disabilityThe Social Model takes the focus away from impairment; it places responsibility on government, organisations, businesses and individuals across all sectors of society to identify and implement constructive changes to remove barriers and increase access.

A good place for organisations and companies to start is by undertaking professional Disability Awareness Training and access consultation services which can be provided by ourselves.

Under the Social Model, disability is framed as a social construct created by barriers which can be changed and eliminated, providing a dynamic and positive model which identifies the problem and proposes a solution.

Society should make changes, not the disabled person.  Organisations should understand and then make the adjustments required to stop excluding people.

The Social Model makes a clear distinction between impairment (a condition, illness or loss/lack of function) and disability (barriers and discrimination). It also demonstrates that people from different impairment groups, far from having separate issues and interests, face common problems – such as lack of access to information and communication, environmental exclusion and discrimination in employment – and empowers them, along with their allies, to find common solutions to remove these barriers.

It moves away from a position of ‘blaming’ the individual for their ‘disability’, and argues that impairment is and always will be present in society, and suggests that the only logical outcome is to plan and organise society in a way that includes, rather than excludes, disabled people.


We provide professional Disability Awareness Training and offer a Access Consultancy service for organisations wanting to become accessible, open up to disabled people and improve their diversity.

Why not get in touch with us and ask us about how we can help your business.

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