This is the Shape Arts easy read page about the Social Model of Disability.

 At Shape Arts, we always use the Social Model of Disability. Everything we do is guided by it.


The Social Model is a way to think about disability. It is very important because it shows the world how to include disabled people.

The Social Model shows us that a person isn’t disabled by having an impairment or health condition, or by being different from what a doctor might think is normal.

Instead, what makes a person disabled are the barriers that make you less able to do things. Barriers make life easier for non-disabled people and harder for disabled people.


A barrier might be people bullying disabled people or thinking bad things about them.

A barrier might be a place not making any changes so that disabled people can live or work there.

Barriers might be physical barriers, like a building only having stairs and no lift.


For example, a wheelchair user is not disabled because they use a wheelchair. A wheelchair user is disabled because many buildings do not have step-free access. Not having step-free access is a disabling barrier.


When we know what a barrier is, we can get rid of it so that disabled people are included.

The Social Model was made by disabled people to point out and fight discrimination. It is there to help disabled people live their lives the way they want to.


The Social Model was made to use instead of the old Medical Model. The Medical Model said that being disabled is an individual health problem. The Medical Model focused on what a person can't do because of their impairment or health condition. It was like saying that disabled people should be changed or fixed.


The Social Model is like saying that the world should be changed or fixed so that disabled people can be independent and included.


The Social Model of Disability tells us what barriers the government, organisations, businesses and other people are making. When we know what they are, we can remove them. For example, putting a lift in a building that only has steps so that wheelchair users can enter the building. This is much more useful and helps people to be equal.


The Social Model is very positive. It makes disabled people powerful and in charge of their own lives.

More about the Social Model of Disability