Darlington Association on Disability Logo showing the letters D.A.D. breaking through a wallDarlington Association
on Disability
Centre for Independent Living


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What is Disability?

Disability is not caused by a person's impairment of physical or sensory functioning, but by a lack of access to equipment, services, employment / educational opportunities.

Social Model / Medical Model

Medical Model

In the medical model, the individual Disabled Person is seen as the problem. This model views the body as sick, invalid (in-valid) or defective and as being in need of a cure. Success in finding a cure or rehabilitating someone is measured by how close they can come to being ‘normal’. For example, it is seen as better - or more ‘normal’ - for a person to be able to stand and walk, even if slowly and with difficulty, than to get around more quickly and comfortably using a wheelchair.

If the professional ‘fails’, and it is not possible to achieve a ‘cure’, the Disabled Person or ‘patient’ then becomes worthy of charity, which they will accept passively and gratefully.

Social Model

The Social Model of disability sees a person's medical condition as only part of the so-called ‘problem’. It argues that most of the day to day problems that Disabled People face are caused by the fact that society is organised and designed to meet the needs of non-disabled people, people who are classed as ‘normal’.

The result is that Disabled People are unnecessarily segregated because of a badly designed built - environment, (high kerbs, steps, narrow doors, toilet facilities, poor lighting and so on), inaccessible public transport, discriminatory attitudes, and practices in institutions such as education and employment which assume Disabled People ‘can't do it’.

Using the medical model, the solutions would be to offer individual medical aids or operations which would enable the person to become more ‘normal’.

Using the social model, not only helps draw attention to the barriers in society, but offers solutions which are wider than trying to change the person and to cure the individuals impairment.