Social Model of Disability

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“The social model of disability locates disability not within the individual disabled person, but within society” (French, 2004, p. 265). Drawing upon the academic writing of disabled people and others, as well as the case study, first describe the social model of disability and then discuss its relevance to the practice of therapists. The social model of disability promotes equality, dignity, independence and choice of disabled people focusing attention on the idea that impairment itself is not a limitation, it is a barrier within society which disables and prevent people from fulfilling their potential. Therefore in this essay I am going to describe social model of disability viewing disability in terms of environmental, attitudinal and structural barriers, explaining how these barriers may become limitations for disabled people. In the first part of the essay I will define social model of disability and explain how this model can change disabled people’s views relating to their own disability. Then drawing upon disabled people writing as well as the case study of David I will look at the barriers that disabled people face on a daily basis and look at some of the criticism of the social model. Finally, I am going to discuss social model’s relevance to the practice of therapists. Disability can be viewed from two perspectives: the medical model and the social model. The medical model understands disability as a personal tragedy; it sees impairment as a cause of limitations. Whereas the social model of disability is an attempt to switch the focus away from the functional limitations of individuals (personal tragedy) on to the problems caused by disabling environments, barriers and cultures, it refuses to see specific problems in isolation from disabling society (Oliver, 1996 cited in Oliver, 2009, p. 45). For example, if a wheelchair user cannot access a

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