Putting Disabled Children In The Picture
in the picture: "a state of being fully informed or noticed." The Concise Oxford Dictionary scope - Time to get equal

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Social Model of Disability


In The Picture is rooted in the social model of disability.

The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person?s impairment or difference.

The social model of disability looks at ways of removing barriers which restrict life choices for people with impairments or differences.

When barriers are removed, disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives.

Disabled people developed the social model of disability because the traditional medical model did not explain their personal experience of disability or help to develop more inclusive ways of living.

(An impairment is defined as the limitation of a person?s physical, mental or sensory function on a long term basis.)

Changing attitudes

Barriers can include attitudes as well as physical barriers.

Attitudes found in society, based on prejudice or stereotype, are important barriers that prevent people with impairments or differences having equal opportunities to be part of society.

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Medical model

The social model is very different to the medical model.

The social model says that disability is caused by the way society is organised. The medical model of disability says people are disabled by their impairments or differences.

Under the medical model, these impairments or differences should be 'fixed' or changed by medical and other treatments, even when the impairment or difference does not cause pain or illness.

The medical model looks at what is 'wrong' with the person and not what the person needs in the rest of their life.

It creates low expectations of people with impairments and differences so that their schooling and employment opportunities are more limited and they are more likely to live in poverty.

It leads to people with impairments and differences losing independence, choice and control in their own lives.

Some examples

  • A wheelchair user wants to get into a building with a step at the entrance. Under a social model solution, a ramp would be added to the entrance so that the wheelchair user is free to go into the building immediately. Using the medical model there are very few solutions to help wheelchair users to climb stairs, which excludes them from many essential and leisure activities.
  • A teenager with a learning difficulty wants to work towards living independently in their own home but is unsure how to pay the rent. Under the social model, the person would be supported so that they are enabled to pay rent and live in their own home. Under a medical model, the young person might be expected to live in a communal home.
  • A child with a visual impairment wants to read the latest best-selling book to chat about with their sighted friends. Under the medical model there are very few solutions but a social model solution ensures full text audio-recordings are available when the book is first published. This means children with visual impairments can join in with cultural activities on an equal basis with everyone else.

Stories reflect society and they project aspects of the social or medical model through their scenarios and the activities and attitudes of their characters.

When writing or illustrating fiction for children, a social model theme is preferable.


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Winnie the Witch
The social model of disability in action!


Further reading
about the social model of disability.

 ©Copyright Scope - In The Picture.
Scope: About cerebral palsy. For disabled people achieving equality. Time to get equal