The Social Model of Disability


What is the social model of disability? How does it apply to education?

“Life isn’t harder [for my daughter] because she’s suffering, life is harder because the facilities for her to have the same choices in life are not always there.” Rosalind, parent.

In the social model of disability, Disabled people are seen as being disabled not by their impairments (such as blindness or autism) but by society’s failure to take their needs into account. Being Disabled is part of the normal spectrum of human life, and society must adapt to include Disabled people.

For example if a wheelchair user can’t get into a building, the social model would state that the problem is that there is no ramp, not that the person is using a wheelchair.

This works much better for Disabled people than the medical model because it means they can access the full range of educational, employment, social and other opportunities as everyone else, and have equal lives.

In education, this means that not only buildings but the curriculum and whole school environment should be made accessible to Disabled learners.

This is why ALLFIE argues that mainstream education should be inclusive of Disabled children and young people.

Further reading:

Inclusive education reading list for students

Resources for education professionals

More definitions