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The Social Model of Disability

edited May 2019 in General

Yesterday I attended a really interesting discussion about the Social Model of Disability hosted by Disability Wales.

Sure, Social Model principles and practices are claimed to be adapted by the Welsh government and local authorities but in reality is that really the case? I personally continually hear about and witness happenings that question whether all the employees and organisations contracted to deliver their services understand their obligations.

The basic principles of the 2010 Equality and 2014 Welsh Social Services and Wellbeing act are Social Model orientated. Why is it that as a disabled person I feel let down by what I experience in day to day life by having contact with service providers? Of course there have been improvements in the lives of many people but something is not connecting, the message is not getting down the line.

Is the term ‘Social Model of Disability’ appropriate? Should equality based awareness training be made mandatory to all front line employees of companies and organisations contracted by Welsh government and local authorities?

Let’s get a discussion going about this.


  • The word disability in the social model is open to change in my opinion but in every day life the medical model prevails.

    Perhaps too much emphasis on correct terms and language has turned people away. The BBC have supposedly adopted the social model but only last week on the news they featured a 'wheechair bound' child.

    That went out to millions of viewers who will think that is the correct term to use when referring to a wheelchair user.
  • I hate to be called wheelchair bound. I m a wheelchair user. The BBC should be ashamed.
  • edited June 2019
    It is up to us to let the mainstream broadcasters know when they are making language errors.
  • The Social Model means a lot to disabled people. It is how most of us want to live in a perfect world. The Medical model is what most of us have thrust upon us, especially when dealing with social services and the authorities. Rules, regulations and government acts do not change attitudes but education and media support will.

    The BBC should know better that refer to a wheelchair user as wheelchair bound. Perhaps Disability Wales should invite media influencers to future discussions.

  • Attitudes and policies are changing too slowly for my generation to live more independently. The medical model prevails in the care system in Wales. I am forever being told by my carers what they cannot do because of rules and regulations which make my life less comfortable. Do the policy makers at Social Care Wales understand the social model?

    Liam you are correct. Education and media support to promote the social model and role models, especially young disabled people, getting on and succeeding in life are needed.

  • I checked social model online and it relates to how most of us are and want to live. Trouble is though that we live in a medical model world. Everything, including my impairment is a medical term. Strangers see me as a wheelchair user so something must be wrong with me. Even fellow disabled people who I meet for the first time often ask me what is wrong with me.

    I am outspoken, have sexual fantasies, dont like Marmite and never go to church. Should I tell them that? We all have opinions about an ideal world which would be social model based but we are constantly battered by medical model reality. When disabled people achieve good things the media has nasty patronising undertones in the way disabled people are portrayed so the messages getting out to the public are not helping us. We are victims of ignorance.

    The media is the biggest influencer out here so they must be the principle target to fully adopt the social model. It is then up to us to kick their backsides when they screw up.

  • I do not know any other disabled person who does not view the social model as the way forward. The social model lights a fire in my belly to rid the world of barriers restricting my full participation in life.

  • My latest social worker visited me earlier. Her understanding and attitude was so refreshing it looks like the message is finally getting across. I felt human for the first time ever instead of feeling like I was being interrogated. I will be getting adaptions at home which will increase my independence:)

  • CalCal
    edited June 2019
    To truly live in life barrier free those who build barriers must be made aware of their mistakes.
    Equality is slowly being introduced on the national curriculum. It is the responsibility of our generation to make sure all future generations live barrier free. I hope that future employers and the department of work and pensions learn because I still can't get a job.
  • Social Model principals just disappear when in hospital. I felt humiliated, an inconvenience, during a three day stay recently. The language was upsetting and attitudes were medical based.

  • My x girlfriend was a nurse who told me that nurses ànd staff in most NHS hospitals are only trained around the medical model.
  • The medical model is yet again being used when being assessed for additional care. My rights were ignored by paid council staff which I found humiliating. The attitude of the care home staff is much better but they can only provide the care that is on my care plan. It needs to change if my life is to benefit from social changes.

  • The Social Model of Disability is common sense and to me you don’t have to be a disability activist to support and promote the basic principles of. Last week when questioning the access of the job centre the security man called me an activist which I am not. I felt like I was being considered as a pain and not taken seriously.

  • Don’t be afraid of being called an activist or considered to be a pain by letting people know how we feel. It is criminal that most job centres are not fully accessible but the staff working in them don’t give a **** about access. They act like they are trained to be our enemies by patronising us.

  • I am not an activist or ever want to be. I like to think that I am reasonably intelligent and aware of my surroundings. However when dealing with many of the public service providers I often feel that up against ignorant short sighted medical model based idiots.

    Often it is not the individuals but the policies of the public authorities. This asks a question of why do people work for the authorities if they dont agree with the policies which they have to deliver. In my book you have to be a total moron to spend your time doing something you do not agree with.

    What a sad unjust world we live in.

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