Social Model Theory is a concept that aims to redefine disability as a result of society’s failure to accommodate individuals with impairments. According to this theory, disability is not an inherent characteristic of an individual but rather a social construct that arises due to the environmental, cultural, and societal barriers faced by people with disabilities.
The Social Model Theory was first introduced in the 1970s by disabled activists who felt that the medical model of disability, which viewed impairment as a personal tragedy or medical problem, was inadequate in addressing the systemic discrimination faced by people with disabilities. The activists believed that it was necessary to shift the focus from the individual’s impairment to society’s responsibility in creating disabling conditions.
The Medical Model vs. The Social Model
The medical model of disability views impairment as a personal tragedy or medical problem that needs fixing. It focuses on curing or rehabilitating individuals with impairments rather than addressing the societal barriers that prevent them from participating fully in society.
On the other hand, the Social Model Theory sees disability as a result of social oppression and exclusion. It emphasizes removing physical, cultural, and attitudinal barriers so that people with disabilities can participate in society on an equal basis with others.
Examples of Social Barriers
Social barriers are those elements in society that prevent individuals with impairments from fully participating in society. These barriers include inaccessible buildings and transportation systems, discriminatory attitudes among employers and coworkers, lack of appropriate assistive technologies and accommodations, among others.
- Inaccessible buildings
- Transportation systems
- Discriminatory attitudes among employers and coworkers
- Lack of appropriate assistive technologies and accommodations.
Implications for Policy and Practice
The Social Model Theory has significant implications for policy and practice related to disability rights. It emphasizes the need for society to take responsibility for creating an inclusive environment that accommodates individuals with impairments.
Policies and practices that are consistent with the Social Model Theory include:
- Accessible buildings and transportation systems
- Reasonable accommodations in the workplace and educational settings
- Affirmative action to encourage the hiring of people with disabilities
- Training programs to promote disability awareness and sensitivity among employers and coworkers.
In conclusion, the Social Model Theory is a powerful concept that challenges the traditional medical model of disability. It highlights the importance of removing societal barriers so that individuals with impairments can fully participate in society. By shifting our focus from the individual’s impairment to society’s responsibility in accommodating them, we can create a more inclusive and equitable world for everyone.