BBC BLOGS - The Ouch! Blog It's a disability thing
« Previous | Main | Next »

Why I Love the Social Model of Disability

Post categories:

Zephyr | 01:17 UK time, Friday, 13 July 2007

Just so y'all don't think I hate the Social Model just because I don't think it's perfect, today I'm going to talk about why I think it's a good thing. Here are some of the benefits I reap from the Social Model.

1) Curb Cuts - Here in Vancouver, almost all of the sidewalks have them. In NF, I was lucky if half the sidewalks had cuts. Unfortunately, I drove a scooter in Newfoundland, and it got pretty beat up from the floor scraping against the curb. Yikes.

2) No Stairs! - Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule. As an arthritic who uses canes, I hate hate hate hate hate stairs. I honestly think the government should ban architects from designing buildings with stairs, and make them put in ramps and lifts instead. How's that for a militant crip?

3) Accessibility to public buildings - When I lived in Newfoundland, I had to leave my scooter outside of most shops and hobble inside painfully. I was not happy about that. The scooter was meant to save me undue pain, but the gigantic front stoops were driving my pain levels through the roof. Here in BC, most public buildings are level with the ground, thank the gods. Did I ever mention I love BC?

4) Government grants for work and school - The government is paying for a two-year web design course, books, tuition and a computer for me. They should, too. It's their lousy set-up that makes it so damned hard for me to get education and a job. With all this financial help, I'm only moderately behind the average person instead of WAY behind. I know that when I graduate, should I need assistance with work placement or wage supplementation, I can get that, too.

5) Free counseling, occupational therapy, and swimming - I'm very glad I don't have to pay for these things, because there's no way in hell I could afford them.

There you have it. Let it not be said that Zephyr doesn't support the Social Model just because she doesn't think it's the One Supreme Answer.

• Visit Arthritic Young Thing
*May contain adult content*


  • 1.
  • At 08:51 AM on 13 Jul 2007, Bob Williams-Findlay wrote:

I was in Vancouver during the early 1990s for an International Convention and was impressed by the level of accessibility compared to the UK.

One thought I did have was that the "consumer first" approach in Canada probably has had more of a profound impact on cultural awareness of disability issues than the "Rights" one that exists in the UK.

The central difference being that the consumer approach can make "disability" an integral part of service delivery, whereas the "Rights" approach can still lead to the notion that disabled people need "special treatment" or that the push for making reasonable adjustments is part of a 'politically correct' agenda.

  • 2.
  • At 01:17 PM on 13 Jul 2007, Boogaloo Dude wrote:

You may have noticed me (among others) getting a bit steamed up about recent comments by some contributors on the subject of the social model of disability.
I (among others) have come away from these “discussions” with the distinct impression that the commenter hadn’t entirely understood what is actually meant by the term “social model” or indeed “medical model”.

I drafted a further response this morning but it wouldn’t fit on Ouch – hopefully because it was too long and not, as the error response said, because I am “not allowed to post comments”.

The good and entirely lovely Lady Bracknell’s Editor has therefore allowed me to post my comment as a guest blogger on The Perorations of Lady Bracknell, whilst the old dear is out at her regular Friday whist-drive.

It may be viewed here

See you over at Bracknell Towers then…


  • 3.
  • At 01:51 PM on 13 Jul 2007, Boogaloo Dude wrote:

Ok then. So that didn't work.

How about this...

Have you any notion of just how patronising and offensive you are being Boogaloo?

  • 5.
  • At 06:02 PM on 13 Jul 2007, Dame Honoria Glossop wrote:

I have read Boogaloo Dude's piece on Lady Bracknell's blog, and I don't find it in the slightest bit offensive or patronising. In fact I found it very useful and informative.

Boogalo - He's calling you patronizing because you insist on believing that I misunderstand the Social Model. I get it. You can stop explaining it to me like I'm 5, OK? I just don't happen to view it the same way you and others do. And no, I don't believe the Social Model *helps* me. I believe that all the things I get from it are all the things I should be getting anyway.

I support the Social Model, and I think that so far it's the best model for describing and living with disability, but I also think some of the other models have merit, too.

Is the validity of the social model really so fragile that it requires such inaccurate, patronising and even at times offensive comments as have been made in the various discussions here and the linked Blog.

Particularly when these are being levelled against another disabled person simply for daring to question some of the tone and language used by the now apparently mind reading and all knowing advocates of the model who apparently know why everyone does everything?

Please try reading through the various threads here, and also the responses to the Blog referenced to above, and see just how those that dare to question even small aspects of the social model have been characterised and tell me this is the way to bring such people on board let alone society at large.

For myself, I need no lecture on our history I lived it, and from both sides of the divide you are all so certain exists. Strangely though it did not take my being disabled to believe in the simple notion all are created equal with none being more equal than others.

50 years on, just maybe, now is the time to tear down the protective fence you all seem so insistent on maintaining around the clearly “sacred” and infallible social model.

And with it tear down the sacrificial “alter”, where none but the completely faithful are welcome to participate and where anyone who dares disagree with the dogma, even to the smallest degree, are to be dismissed, despised and defamed.

Just maybe then a far more flexible and universal model could be agreed and crafted in such a way that it serves to unite rather than divide us.

If not then I fear it might, somewhat ironically, be the social model itself which ultimately could defeat what clearly are our common aims.

But then, what does that matter just as long as you are all so sure you are right and everyone who disagrees is so wrong and if not simply ignorant or ill-informed then clearly nasty and even, by some at least, to be seen as brainwashed, inhuman, self despising traitors and advocates of universal genocide on a par with that of the Nazis?

Come on now, shame on you all. And shame too on the social model itself, if its inflexible and uncompromising dogma has to be placed above the very reason, purpose and need for its creation.

How can a model such as the Medical Model have merit when its whole MO is to treat you as a lesser person? If you want to be treated like that good luck to you.

  • 9.
  • At 08:28 AM on 14 Jul 2007, Boogaloo Dude wrote:


I am intolerant, not of people but of any viewpoint which contains even the hint of a thought of a suggestion that I am somehow socially inferior because of a physical impairment. Particularly as I only became inferior when I acquired that impairment relatively recently.

Still I concede the points you have made. It’s a fair cop and you’ve seen right through me.

I did, in fact, engineer this whole episode so that I could publicly accuse people whom I have never met and with whom I have no grievance whatsoever of being brainwashed, treacherous, closet Nazis who have betrayed the few of us who were chosen to be pure and justified.

Hey, what can I tell you? It’s what I do!!

I’d already quit the message-boards some time ago because of the apparent inability of some participants to distance themselves from the argument but instead to take every intellectual or descriptive point as a personal slight.

I decided to comment on the guest blogs because a couple of the bloggers are personal friends whom I respect greatly.

However, “to the victor the spoils”. I retreat and resign and I promise that you will never see me on Ouch again.

Have a nice day.


That really would be a shame Dude, but it is, of course your prerogative. I just can't see how it helps move things forward though.

That said, and as I appear to now be cast as the big bad anti-social model "wolf", complete with big bad eyes that see the world so differently and big sharp teeth that scare even the strongest opponent into submission, perhaps I too should try to explain some other things which I had hoped were obvious to anyone who had read my earlier arguments.

Like Zephyr, I fully grasp, understand and accept the basic concepts behind the social model and also fully support its aims and goals if not always its methods or what I believe are misapplication of the theory.

My objection (against the model and not yourself) is not that it is wrong, but that in many ways it simply does not go far enough.

As I said in the very first of Zephyr's Blogs on this topic:

"I hope others will find this debate interesting and informative.."

“I think more than anything else what this thread, and how it later developed to explore other aspects of how we each view our own, (and other's) individual relationship with disability, has served to give all of us a far deeper understanding not only of our own thoughts and feelings about the part disability plays in our lives but importantly also for others, and this can only be to the good.

What is clear is that there are no universal answers and individual points of view are just that, but gaining a better insight into how others have arrived at where they are now might just enable all of us to be a little more sensitive and accepting to both the existence and validity of those alternative views.”

Peter aka “Sociable”

Then later in the same thread:

"I, however, would go far further than either he or Simon seems to be suggesting we need to try to develop a model that actually seeks to explore the way both individuals with disabilities and the broader disabled community as a whole functions within society and vice versa.

This will inevitably need to build on existing theories and understanding, not least of all the “social” model itself, but also include the part other factors such as psychology, economics, politics and the simple practical realities of life always play in the overall scheme of things.

Perhaps if we all can, for now at least, call a short truce on how to define "disability" for long enough we might just collectively be able to work together to achieve this goal.

If not I will just carry on working on my own theory for now and come back to the topic when I have been able to put together my own thoughts more clearly in the hope I can build in a degree of consensus that might avoid the current squabbles discussion of such things always seems to provoke right now.”

Peter aka “Sociable”.

"Go gentle with yourself..strive to be happy"

  • 11.
  • At 04:45 PM on 14 Jul 2007, Chris Page wrote:


You have the gall to refer to others as patronising, yet you then post the abive sentence - who is the patronising one now, Peter? Many times oin the baords you have done just that. Then you've proceeded to try and kid us that you're the "voice of reason". Enough of the double standards, please.


Had only Zephyr been deemed in need of educating on the history and meaning of social and medical models of disability I fully accept that my jumping to her defence without being invited could be seen as patronising.

This was, however, not the case and as she has clearly demonstrated many times before she is in any case more than up to the task of standing up for herself without help from me or anyone else for that matter.

What was true, however, is that I personally was clearly one of those deemed in need of such an education, given the remarks were addressed to an un-named "commenter" and not Zephyr herself.

My indication that I personally found this patronising and offensive was therefore my right and did not require me having any gall at all.

Just for reference the offence I felt came not only from an assumption about my lack of understanding of the social and medical models, but also the closing remarks in the posting to the other site to the effect, anyone holding it possible to combine the social model with any other would need to be suffering from a multiple personality disorder.

One last point, I am pleased you associate my style and content here and on the Ouch Message Boards generally with the phrase, "voice of reason". I would, however, make it very clear indeed that I would never seek to claim or imply such an epithet applied to either me or my opinions, your kind words are none the less appreciated.

Peter aka "Sociable"

(Just one voice among the many, no more no less)

  • 13.
  • At 08:35 PM on 30 Oct 2007, Harvey wrote:

I'm not sure if this is the place to ask, or even add a comment here, but i would very much appreciate if someone took the time to explain how the social model to me. I have a basic understanding however i'm unsure how it would help me work more appropriately when on clinical placements. I am an 18 year old undergraduate studying my first year of physiotherapy.

Regards Harvey

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.