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Basic models of disability


Disability comes in many forms, but here are some very simple beginner concepts to help understand some types of disabilities and barriers to inclusion in our society.

Remember not all disabilities are visible and not all barriers are because of a disability.

The medical and social model of disability

As simple way to describe the two models of disability are:

  • the medical model of disability sees the disability of the person as the problem. It sees the biological impairment as a barrier that places an individual at a disadvantage

  • the social model of disability sees the barriers created by society as the problem. Disabling environments in society are often avoidable conditions brought on by bad design, not because someone has a disability.

The social model doesn't ignore a person's disability. It shows that when environments are designed in an inclusive way they can remove barriers that people with disabilities often face in their everyday lives.

Think of an entrance to a building that has a sloped entrance and automatic sliding doors. 

Not only is a wheelchair user easily able to access the building, but so is everyone else. This is an example of universal design, which means things are designed with everyone in mind.

This type of design thinks about everyone's needs, therefor nobody is disabled from entering the building.

Social model of disability video

Shani Dhanda explains how disabilities can be permanent, temporary or situational and that sometimes it is the environment that disables her, not her disability.

Here is another video explaining the medical and social models of disability

All of us can contribute to an inclusive world to prevent barriers. The Learn to Enable bite-sized digital skills can help to remove barriers to participation in everyday digital content.

Understanding the situation from another perspective

This is a great video to demonstrate the social model of disability and the impact of designing for all needs. It is a very good alternative perspective.

Did you know?

If it wasn’t for inventions developed for the disability community we would not have half of the useful things we have today. Visit the did you know page to find out more.

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