Skip to Content
Skip to Navigation

Models of Disabilty

Models of Disability

The Social Model

At SDSS we follow the social model of disability and apply this to all of the work that we do. The Social Model of disability is a way of viewing the world and systems, developed by disabled people. The model says that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. Barriers can be physical, like buildings not having accessible entrances, or they can be caused by attitudes to difference (e.g the assumption that disabled people can’t live independently).

The Affirmative Model 

This model identifies impairment as a characteristic of human difference to be valued on its own terms. Disability is not just about what people with impairments are prevented from doing and being, but about what they are required to do and be instead. Whether this involves taking on roles of passive dependency or triumph over tragedy, either way negates the lived experience of impairment and signifies the desirability of normality. The affirmative model demands a recognition of impairment as an ordinary rather than an extraordinary characteristic of human experience, and for inclusion within ordinary life on that basis. For this reason we value this emerging model and the way it captures the experience of disabled people.

The Medical Model.

The Medical Model is where disability is understood as an individual problem. If somebody has an impairment – a visual, mobility, or hearing impairment, for example – their inability to see, walk, or hear is understood as their disability.

The Medical Model is often known as the ‘personal tragedy model’ because it regards the difficulties that people with impairments experience as being caused by the ways that their bodies are shaped and experienced (Swain, J French, S & Cameron, C, 2003: 22).

At SDSS we apply the Social Model so that disability is no longer seen as an individual problem and it becomes a social issue:  ‘People are disabled by society’s reaction to impairment which prevents their participation as equal citizens’ (Inclusion Scotland, 2004). We see the Social Model as fundamental to our approach in promoting independent living in Scotland.