Is it disability or accessibility – The social model

This is a subject that I’m coming across a lot more lately whether it’s online or in conversation – the social model of disability. What does it actually mean? Many people that are disabled see it in different ways, why because one size doesn’t fit all, in other words, each person’s disabilities affects them in different ways – for one it could be a pain aspect then for another it’s accessibility.

The social model of disability identifies systemic barriers, attitudes, and social exclusion.

The social model of disability is based on two distinctions between the terms impairment and disability. 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.

In other words – 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 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.

As a disabled woman, I try very hard not to make my impairments an inability but in the same sentence as a campaigner for disabled rights who fights for better access in a world that is still struggling for inclusion, it hard not to see that it’s not my impairments that’s the problem it’s the accessibility.

Councils, high street shops, homes, supermarkets even the government have been for years denying accessibility and passing g the buck on each other – expecting someone else to provide a facility they could easily provide, to make it more inclusive for the disabled world that are just asking for better facilities.

Many people seem to have this misconception if somewhere says it’s ‘accessible’ it automatically means it has a ramp, maybe electric doors or a lift. But that doesn’t make somewhere accessible, It simply just means you can get in. Being fully accessible means you have to catered to ALL walks of life so that everyone is able to enjoy the venue and access the same things, regardless of ability or non-ability. And as an ambassador for purple Tuesday – the purple pound is the spending power of disabled people and their families – is worth a staggering £249 billion and is estimated to be raising by 14% per year.

In the words of Jack Sparrow, “The problem is not the problem, the problem is your attitude about the problem”

And this is where lies the problem the law is outdated and out of touch with the disabled Community, when you have non-bodied people trying to navigate a world they have no experience in. This just allows people to interpret what suits their building/business, which in some circumstances is understandable as what may be reasonable for a multi-billion pound company may be extremely unreasonable for a small newsagent for example.

The lack of knowledge and understanding has meant that people with all different types Impairments are still being treated like second class citizens in their communities. We are not treated as equals and are left feeling unwelcome in many places. And it’s not just the disabled person who feels this way, it’s also our families and friends that feel the frustration.

Having Muscular Dystrophy a progressive muscle wasting condition means I cannot visit places for any length of time unless I can get my powered wheelchair inside and they provide a changing places facilities, yes we all knew at some point I was going to mention my favourite subject, if you’re not sure what a changing places toilet is – it provides a bigger safe space for more than one care giver, a ceiling hoist, toilet central to the wall making it easier to transfer from either side and high adjustable adult size bed. A standard old style ‘disabled’ toilet may work for some but it’s an outdated facility whereas a changing places toilet can be used by ALL with visible or invisible disabled people.

The Government announced on the 19th of July 2020 – new legislation was passed making it compulsory now for any new large builds a changing places facility will need to be built within.

The passing of the buck will never completely disappear unfortunately as Society finds it very easy to pass blame on to people with impairments as the problem. Because taking responsibility for the lack of accessibility is a concept some people find very hard.

I will leave you with this thought – The disabled population is the largest minority group on the planet – it is also the only minority group any one of us could join at any time.

What are your thoughts on the social model of disability? Feel free to leave me a comment I would love to hear your thoughts.

💋 Kerry

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7 thoughts on “Is it disability or accessibility – The social model

  1. Interesting that you demonstrate a comprehensive understand of the Social and Medical Models, and then go on to refer to yourself and your impairments from a Medical Model perspective.
    If I’m defining myself within the terms of the Social Model I don’t “have a disability” – I AM Disabled. Besides, the concept of having a disability suggests (incorrectly) that I can have more than one disability. If disability is a social construct (unlike impairment)) then that is not possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Kerry, whilst I applaud your efforts to get an understanding of the Social Model of Disability, I think you’re tyeing yourself in knots. If you review your post and, in each instance where you have used “disabilities” or “my disability” (with the exception of the first two paragraphs) and you replace them with “impairments” and “my impairment” you’ll come much closer to the issue that the Social Model is trying to raise.

    Also, within the Social Model, people without impairment tend to be called “non-disabled”. “Able-bodied” implies that those who aren’t, ie disabled people, are such because of their “bodies”. Many disabled people have impairments which are neurological, sensory, psychological, etc.

    I hope you find the following language code helpful. Wishing you well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Jon – yes I’ve noticed my mistakes when I reread yesterday, i’m so used to writing those words it becomes natural… I was meant to edited again yesterday I but didn’t have time / but thank you So much for your comment appreciate it


  3. I would prefer to be called person with disabilities or person with cerebral palsy because it is user friendly. if you say disabled person or cerebral palsy person you are defined as a person who has a disability. quite often in a rude manner.

    Liked by 1 person

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