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Social model of disability Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_model_of_disability

A short government advisory animation on the social model of disability

The social model of disability identifies systemic barriers, derogatory attitudes, and social exclusion (intentional or inadvertent), which make it difficult or impossible for individuals with impairments to attain their valued functionings. The social model of disability diverges from the dominant medical model of disability, which is a functional analysis of the body as a machine to be fixed in order to conform with normative values.[1] While physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychological variations may cause individual functional limitation or impairments, these do not necessarily have to lead to disability unless society fails to take account of and include people regardless of their individual differences.

The social model of disability is based on a distinction between the terms impairment and disability. In this model, the word impairment is used to refer to the actual attributes (or lack of attributes) that affect a person, such as the inability to walk or breathe independently. The word disability is used to refer to the restrictions caused by society when it does not give equivalent attention and accommodation to the needs of individuals with impairments.[2]

As a simple example, if a person is unable to climb stairs, the medical model focuses on making the individual physically able to climb stairs. The social model tries to make stair-climbing unnecessary, such as by making society adapt to their needs, and assist them, by replacing the stairs with a wheelchair-accessible ramp. According to the social model, the person remains impaired with respect to climbing stairs, but the impairment should no longer be considered disabling in that scenario, because the person can get to the same locations without climbing any stairs.

The origins of the approach can be traced to the 1960s, and the specific term emerged from the United Kingdom in the 1980s. According to Mike Oliver, the social model of disability was never meant to be an all-encompassing explanation of everything that a disabled person experiences.[3]

History[edit]

Disability rights movement[edit]

There is a hint from before the 1970s that the interaction between impairment and society was beginning to be considered. British politician and disability rights campaigner Alf Morris wrote in 1969 (emphasis added):[4]

When the title of my Bill was announced, I was frequently asked what kind of improvements for the chronically sick and disabled I had in mind. It always seemed best to begin with the problems of access. I explained that I wanted to remove the severe and gratuitous social handicaps inflicted on disabled people, and often on their families and friends, not just by their exclusion from town and county halls, art galleries, libraries and many of the universities, but even from pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and other places of entertainment ... I explained that I and my friends were concerned to stop society from treating disabled people as if they were a separate species.

The history of the social model of disability begins with the history of the disability rights movement. Around 1970, various groups in North America, including sociologists, disabled people, and disability-focused political groups, began to pull away from the accepted medical lens of viewing disability. Instead, they began to discuss things like oppression, civil rights, and accessibility. This change in discourse resulted in conceptualizations of disability that was rooted in social constructions.[3]

In 1975, the UK organization Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS)[5] claimed: "In our view it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society."[6][7] This became known as the social interpretation, or social definition, of disability.[8]

Mike Oliver[edit]

Following the UPIAS "social definition of disability", in 1983 the disabled academic Mike Oliver coined the phrase social model of disability in reference to these ideological developments.[9] Oliver focused on the idea of an individual model (of which the medical was a part) versus a social model, derived from the distinction originally made between impairment and disability by the UPIAS.[10] Oliver's seminal 1990 book The Politics of Disablement[11] is widely cited as a major moment in the adoption of this model. The book included just three pages about the social model of disability.[3]

Developments[edit]

The "social model" was extended and developed by academics and activists in Australia, the UK, the US and other countries, and extended to include all disabled people, including those who have learning difficulties / learning disabilities / or who are intellectually disabled, or people with emotional, mental health or behavioural problems.[12][13]

Tool for cultural analysis[edit]

The social model has become a key tool in the analysis of the cultural representation of disability; from literature, to radio, to charity-imagery to cinema. The social model has become the key conceptual analysis in challenging, for examples, stereotypes and archetypes of disabled people by revealing how conventional imagery reinforces the oppression of disabled people. Key theorists include Paul Darke (cinema), Lois Keith[14] (literature), Leonard Davis (Deaf culture), Jenny Sealey[15] (theatre) and Mary-Pat O'Malley[16] (radio).

Components and usage[edit]

A fundamental aspect of the social model concerns equality. The struggle for equality is often compared to the struggles of other socially marginalized groups. Equal rights are said to empower people with the "ability" to make decisions and the opportunity to live life to the fullest. A related phrase often used by disability rights campaigners, as with other social activism, is "Nothing About Us Without Us".[17]

The social model of disability focuses on changes required in society. These might be in terms of:

  • Attitudes, for example a more positive attitude toward certain mental traits or behaviors, or not underestimating the potential quality of life of those with impairments,
  • Social support, for example help dealing with barriers; resources, aids or positive discrimination to overcome them, for example providing someone to explain work culture for an autistic employee,
  • Information, for example using suitable formats (e.g. braille) or levels (e.g. simplicity of language) or coverage (e.g. explaining issues others may take for granted),
  • Physical structures, for example buildings with sloped access and elevators, or
  • Flexible work hours for people with circadian rhythm sleep disorders or, for example, for people who experience anxiety/panic attacks in rush hour traffic.[18]

Limitations[edit]

Oliver did not intend the social model of disability to be an all-encompassing theory of disability, but rather a starting point in reframing how society views disability.[3] This model was conceived of as a tool that could be used to improve the lives of disabled people, rather than a complete explanation for every experience and circumstance.[3]

It has been criticized for underplaying the role of impairments.[3] It has also been criticized for not promoting the normal differences between disabled people, who can have any age, gender, race, and sexual orientation, and instead presenting them as a monolithic, insufficiently individuated block of people.[3]

As an identity[edit]

In the late 20th century and early 21st century, the social model of disability became a dominant identity for disabled people in the UK.[19]

The social model of disability implies that attempts to change, "fix" or "cure" individuals, especially when used against the wishes of the patient, can be discriminatory and prejudiced. This attitude, which may be seen as stemming from a medical model and a subjective value system, can harm the self-esteem and social inclusion of those constantly subjected to it (e.g. being told they are not as good or valuable, in an overall and core sense, as others). Some communities have actively resisted "treatments", while, for example, defending a unique culture or set of abilities. In the Deaf community, sign language is valued even if most people do not know it and some parents argue against cochlear implants for deaf infants who cannot consent to them.[20][failed verification] People diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum may say that their unusual behavior, which they say can serve an important purpose to them, should not have to be suppressed to please others. They argue instead for acceptance of neurodiversity and accommodation to different needs and goals.[21] Some people diagnosed with a mental disorder argue that they are just different and don't necessarily conform. The biopsychosocial model of disease/disability is an attempt by practitioners to address this.[22]

The Neurodiversity label has been used by various mental-disability rights advocates within the context of the social model of disability.[23] The label has been applied to other neurodevelopmental conditions apart from autism, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental speech disorders, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysnomia, intellectual disability and Tourette syndrome,[24][25] as well as schizophrenia,[23][26] bipolar disorder,[27] and some mental health conditions such as schizoaffective disorder, antisocial personality disorder,[28] dissociative disorders, and obsessive–compulsive disorder.[29]

The social model implies that practices such as eugenics are founded on social values and a prejudiced understanding of the potential and value of those labeled disabled. "Over 200,000 disabled people were some of the earlier victims of the Holocaust, after communists, other political enemies and homosexuals."[30]

A 1986 article stated:[31]

It is important that we do not allow ourselves to be dismissed as if we all come under this one great metaphysical category 'the disabled'. The effect of this is a depersonalization, a sweeping dismissal of our individuality, and a denial of our right to be seen as people with our own uniqueness, rather than as the anonymous constituents of a category or group. These words that lump us all together – 'the disabled', 'spina bifida', 'tetraplegic', 'muscular dystrophy', – are nothing more than terminological rubbish bins into which all the important things about us as people get thrown away.

Economic aspects[edit]

The social model also relates to economics. It proposes that people can be disabled by a lack of resources to meet their needs.[3] For example, a person with impairments may need some kinds of support services to be able to participate fully in society, and can become disabled if society cuts the funding for those support services, perhaps in the name of government austerity measures.

It addresses issues such as the under-estimation of the potential of people to contribute to society and add economic value to society, if given equal rights and equally suitable facilities and opportunities as others. Economic research on companies that attempt to accommodate disability in their workforce suggest they outperform competitors.[32]

In Autumn 2001, the UK Office for National Statistics identified that approximately one fifth of the working-age population was disabled – 7.1 million disabled people as opposed to 29.8 million able people – and in this analysis also provided insight into some of the reasons why disabled people were unwilling to enter the labour market, such as that the reduction in disability benefits in entering the labour market would not make it worthwhile to enter into employment. A three-pronged approach was suggested: "incentives to work via the tax and benefit system, for example through the Disabled Person’s Tax Credit; helping people back into work, for example via the New Deal for Disabled People; and tackling discrimination in the workplace via anti-discrimination policy. Underpinning this are the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 and the Disability Rights Commission."[33]

Canada and the United States have operated under the premise that social assistance benefits should not exceed the amount of money earned through labour in order to give citizens an incentive to search for and maintain employment. This has led to widespread poverty amongst disabled citizens. In the 1950s, disability pensions were established and included various forms of direct economic assistance; however, compensation was incredibly low. Since the 1970s, both governments have viewed unemployed, disabled citizens as excess labour due to continuous high unemployment rates and have made minimal attempts to increase employment, keeping disabled people at poverty-level incomes due to the ‘incentive’ principle. Poverty is the most debilitating circumstance disabled people face, resulting in the inability to afford proper medical, technological and other assistance necessary to participate in society.[34]

Law and public policy[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the Disability Discrimination Act defines disability using the medical model - disabled people are defined as people with certain conditions, or certain limitations on their ability to carry out "normal day-to-day activities." But the requirement of employers and service providers to make "reasonable adjustments" to their policies or practices, or physical aspects of their premises, follows the social model.[35] By making adjustments, employers and service providers are removing the barriers that disable - according to the social model, they are effectively removing the person's disability. In 2006, amendments to the act called for local authorities and others to actively promote disability equality. This enforcement came in the shape of the Disability Equality Duty in December 2006.[36] In 2010, The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) was amalgamated into the Equality Act 2010 along with other pertinent discrimination legislation. It extends the law on discrimination to indirect discrimination. For example, if a carer of a person with a disability is discriminated against, this is now also unlawful.[37] Since October 2010, when it came into effect, employers may not legally ask questions about illness or disability at interview for a job or for a referee to comment on such in a reference, except where there is a need to make reasonable adjustments for an interview to proceed. Following an offer of a job, an employer can lawfully ask such questions.[38]

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), revision of 2008 effective in January 2009, is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability.[39] It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. It requires that mass transportation, commercial buildings and public accommodations be accessible to disabled people Certain specific conditions are excluded, such as alcoholism.

In 2007, the European Court of Justice in the Chacón Navas v Eurest Colectividades SA court case, defined disability narrowly according to a medical definition that excluded temporary illness, when considering the Directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (Council Directive 2000/78/EC). The directive did not provide for any definition of disability, despite discourse in policy documents previously in the EU about endorsing the social model of disability. This allowed the Court of Justice to take a narrow medical definition.[citation needed]

Technology[edit]

Over the last several decades, technology has transformed networks, services, and communication by promoting the rise of telecommunications, computer use, etc. This Digital Revolution has changed how people work, learn, and interact: moving these basic human activities to technological platforms. However, many people who use such technology experience a form of disability. Even if it is not physically visible, those with, for example cognitive impairments, hand tremors or vision impairments, have some form of disability that prohibit them from fully accessing technology in the way that those without a "technological disability" do.

In "Disability and New Media," Katie Ellis and Mike Kent state that "technology is often presented as a source of liberation; however, developments associated with Web 2.0 show that this is not always the case."[40] They go on to state that the technological advancement of Web 2.0 is tethered to social ideology and stigma which "routinely disables people with disability."[40]

In "Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in New Media," Gregg Goggin and Christopher Newell call for an innovative understanding of new media and disability issues.[41] They trace developments ranging from telecommunications to assistive technologies, to offer a technoscience of disability which offers a global perspective on how people with disabilities are represented as users, consumers, viewers, or listeners of new media, by policymakers, corporations, programmers, and the disabled themselves.

Social construction of disability[edit]

The social construction of disability comes from a paradigm of ideas that suggest that society's beliefs about a particular community, group or population are grounded in the power structures inherent in a society at any given time. These are often steeped in historical representations of the issue and social expectations surrounding concepts such as disability, thereby enabling a social construct around what society deems disabled and healthy.

Ideas surrounding disability stem from societal attitudes, often connected to who is deserving or undeserving, and deemed productive to society at any given time. For example, in the medieval period, a person's moral behavior established disability. Disability was a divine punishment or side effect of a moral failing; being physically or biologically different was not enough to be considered disabled. Only during the European Enlightenment did society change its definition of disability to be more related to biology. However, what most Western Europeans considered to be healthy determined the new biological definition of health.[42]

2000 Paralympics[edit]

Since the invention of the television in the early 1900s, this medium has held a pervasive influence on public outlook on many aspects of society, disability being one of them. One example is how the 2000 Paralympics were televised, in contrast to the Olympics. The 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, one of the biggest in history, was barely acknowledged by mainstream media prior to the event.[citation needed] The Sydney Paralympic organizers worked extensively to try to solicit coverage of the Games. For more than two years, they negotiated with Channel 7 to broadcast the competitions. Channel 7 proposed that if the Paralympics paid them $3 million in case of lack of advertising revenue they would agree to broadcast the event. Eventually, the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Channel 7 announced they would be broadcasting the Games and Channel 7 would "complement" the coverage with a highlights package that ran daily on its pay-TV Channel. ABC also promised to broadcast at least 60 minutes of daily highlights. Later, ABC finally agreed to air a live broadcast of the opening and closing ceremonies. The opening and closing ceremonies were quite popular amongst viewers, watched by 2.5 million; however the rest of the games were not popular.[citation needed] While the Olympics were covered live throughout the entire event, the Paralympics were not seen as important enough for the same live coverage before the initial showing. By separating the Olympics and Paralympics, and thus indicating that one is less valuable than the other, disability is socially constructed.[43]

Applications[edit]

Applying the social model of disability can change goals and care plans. For example, with the medical model of disability, the goal may be to help a child acquire typical abilities and to reduce impairment. With the social model, the goal may be to have a child be included in the normal life of the community, such as attending birthday parties and other social events, regardless of the level of function.[44]

Education[edit]

It has been suggested that disability education tries to restore the idea of a moral community, one in which the members question what constitutes a good life, reimagine education, see physical and mental conditions as part of a range of abilities, consider that different talents are distributed in different ways, and understand that all talents should be recognized. In this system, all students would be included in the educational network instead of being set apart as special cases, and it would be acknowledged that all humans have special needs and no one is normal.[45]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Oliver, Michael, 1945-2019. (2012). The new politics of disablement. Barnes, Colin, 1946-, Oliver, Michael, 1945-2019. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780230392441. OCLC 963741473.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Pam Thomas; Lorraine Gradwell; Natalie Markham. "Defining Impairment within the Social Model of Disability" (PDF). leeds.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Oliver, Mike (October 2013). "The social model of disability: thirty years on". Disability & Society. 28 (7): 1024–1026. doi:10.1080/09687599.2013.818773. S2CID 145557887.
  4. ^ Morris, Alfred; Butler, Arthur (1972). No Feet to Drag - Report on the Disabled. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-0-283-97867-8.
  5. ^ Baldwinson, Tony (2019). UPIAS - The Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (1972-1990) : a public record from private files. TBR Imprint. ISBN 978-1-913148-01-0. OCLC 1099943533.[page needed]
  6. ^ "THE UNION OF THE PHYSICALLY IMPAIRED AGAINST SEGREGATION and THE DISABILITY ALLIANCE discuss Fundamental Principles of Disability" (PDF). UPIAS. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
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  23. ^ a b Chapman, Robert (10 January 2019). "Neurodiversity Theory and Its Discontents: Autism, Schizophrenia, and the Social Model of Disability". In Tekin, Serife; Bluhm, Robyn (eds.). The Bloomsbury Companion to Philosophy of Psychiatry. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 371–387. ISBN 9781350024069.
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