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What is the Social Model of Disability?

This guide helps you better understand what the Social Model of Disability is, and how to use it in your work.

A different model for equality

At Get Yourself Active, we use The Social Model of Disability in all our work – including communications. The model was developed by Disabled people and describes people as being Disabled by barriers in society, not by our impairment or difference.

The key to the social model is the understanding that modern life can be inaccessible to Disabled people and that we would not be excluded or restricted if things were set up differently. The Social Model of Disability helps us recognise barriers that make life harder for Disabled people.

Our guide about common barriers in the sport and physical activity sector helps add further context to the reality for Disabled people looking to get active.

Why is language important?

Language is a crucial part of the Social Model of Disability. Language reflects society’s cultural assumptions and thinking.

It is never just descriptive. Language  shapes how we see each other, shows how we value different identities, and sometimes changes how we behave.

Until recently, Disabled people were normally described in a way that reflected a negative or medical view of disability. Terms like ‘cripples’, ‘handicapped’ and ‘wheelchair bound’ reinforce a negative view of Disabled people and often show us as vulnerable ‘victims’ or ‘objects’.

The Social Model language refuses this negative or medical language and replaces it with more positive language that truly sees us as human beings.

It is crucial that you integrate the Social Model into your communications. It is important to remember the main point, which is not whether or not a particular term is ‘correct’, which can quickly become a quite tiresome discussion, but whether the meaning of your language conveys positive or negative perceptions of Disabled People.

If you’d like to learn more about the Social Model, and the importance of understanding this model, please watch this webinar from Disability Rights UK CEO Kamran Mallick below.

Next Steps

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We’d love for you to share your experiences of getting active and having fun wherever you are. Please do get in touch to share your thoughts on the latest news or what sport and physical activity mean to you.

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