The social model of disability theory is a concept that challenges traditional notions of defining disability. It suggests that disabilities do not arise from an individual’s physical or mental impairment but rather from the social and environmental barriers that prevent them from participating fully in society. This theory has significant implications for how society perceives people with disabilities and the measures taken to address their needs.

Understanding the Social Model of Disability Theory

The social model of disability theory is based on the idea that disabilities are not inherent in individuals but rather imposed upon them by society. This means that it is not physical or mental impairments that limit individuals with disabilities but rather societal attitudes, discrimination, and exclusion. Therefore, the focus should be on removing barriers and creating a more inclusive society for people with disabilities.

The Medical Model vs. The Social Model

The medical model of disability theory views disabilities as individual impairments to be cured or fixed medically. This model emphasizes the physical or mental condition of an individual as the main cause of their disability and seeks to eliminate or reduce this condition through medical interventions. In contrast, the social model focuses on removing obstacles in society that prevent individuals with disabilities from participating fully.

Implications for Society

Adopting a social model perspective has significant implications for how society perceives and treats people with disabilities. It means recognizing that people with disabilities are entitled to equal rights and opportunities as non-disabled individuals. It also means acknowledging and addressing the societal barriers that prevent them from accessing education, employment, transportation, healthcare, housing, and other essential services.


In conclusion, understanding the social model of disability theory is essential for building a more inclusive society where everyone can participate fully without discrimination or exclusion. By recognizing that barriers exist not in individuals but in society, we can work towards creating a more accessible world for all. The social model of disability theory is an important step towards ensuring that the rights and needs of people with disabilities are respected and met.