Use our accessibility tools to help you browse our website!
Accessibility SettingsAccessibility Settings
Font Size
Font Family
Letter Spacing
Line Height
Background Colour
Font Colour
Button Colour
Dark Mode
Image Toggle
Text to Speech

What is the social model of disability?

Categories: All, Ethics

Do you know what the social model of disability is? Do you know the other 4 models? Do you relate to them, or are you not a big fan of some of them? – Published April ’23

The social model of disability suggests that disability as a social construct rather than an inherent characteristic of an individual.


According to this model, disability is not caused by the physical or mental impairment of an individual, but rather by the barriers and limitations created by society. It suggests that society must take responsibility for creating an inclusive environment that accommodates individuals with disabilities, and that disability is a matter of social justice and human rights.

A yellow background with two hands on either side of a sign that says

The social model of disability stands in contrast to the medical model, which views disability as a medical problem that requires medical solutions. The medical model places the focus on the individual’s impairment and the need to “fix” or “cure” it, rather than on the barriers and limitations imposed by society. This model has been criticized for perpetuating stigma and discrimination against individuals with disabilities, as well as for reinforcing the notion that disability is something to be ashamed of and hidden from society.

The social model of disability is important for disabled people because it provides a framework for understanding disability as a social issue rather than a personal tragedy or individual failing. It recognizes that disability is not an inherent limitation of the individual, but rather a result of the way society is organized. This perspective empowers individuals with disabilities to challenge the barriers and limitations they face in their daily lives, and to demand the right to full participation in all aspects of society.

A barrier at the foreground that is red and white striped. A blue background is blurred so hard to see.

The social model of disability has also been instrumental in promoting accessibility and inclusion in various areas of society, such as education, employment, and public spaces. It has led to the development of laws and policies that protect the rights of individuals with disabilities, and to the creation of organizations and advocacy groups that work towards social change.

The social model of Disability: thirty years on.

The social model of disability has contributed to a more positive and inclusive portrayal of disability in the media and popular culture over many years. It has helped to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about disability, and to promote a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the experiences and perspectives of disabled people.


In conclusion, the social model of disability provides a valuable perspective on disability that emphasizes the role of society in creating and maintaining barriers and limitations for individuals with disabilities. By challenging the assumptions and biases that underpin the medical model of disability, the social model has played a key role in promoting social justice and human rights for disabled people. It is an important framework for understanding disability and for advocating for a more inclusive and accessible society for all.


Here at Bnode we strongly agree with the concept of the social model of disability as this sits well with the change that we’re championing when it comes to the world’s current online accessibility situation, however the other 4 models have their values and are worth noting.

What are the other models of disability?

There are several models of disability that attempt to explain and understand the experience of disability.

The other 4 most commonly recognized models of disability are:

The Medical Model of Disability:

The medical model views disability as a medical problem that needs to be fixed or cured. It focuses on the physical or mental impairment of the individual and suggests that the solution to disability is medical treatment, rehabilitation or cure. In this model, disability is seen as a personal tragedy or misfortune and the focus is on the individual’s limitations rather than their abilities.

The Cultural Model of Disability:

The cultural model views disability as a unique cultural experience that should be valued and celebrated. It suggests that disability is a natural variation of human diversity and that people with disabilities should have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. This model emphasizes the importance of cultural identity and community support for people with disabilities.

The Identity Model of Disability:

The identity model views disability as an aspect of personal identity, similar to race, gender, or sexual orientation. It suggests that people with disabilities have a unique perspective on the world and should be proud of their identity. This model emphasizes the importance of self-determination and self-advocacy for people with disabilities.

The Legal Model of Disability:

The legal model views disability as a legal issue, where people with disabilities are entitled to legal protection and equal rights under the law. This model emphasizes the importance of anti-discrimination legislation, accessibility requirements, and the protection of civil rights for people with disabilities.

In summary, the medical model focuses on the individual’s medical condition, while the social, cultural, and identity models focus on the broader social and cultural factors that affect the experience of disability. The legal model focuses on legal protections and rights for people with disabilities. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses, and understanding them can help us develop more inclusive and equitable policies and practices for people with disabilities, however if we were to pick one that we didn’t bond with, it would be the medical model and the one we related to the most would be the social model of disability.


Which ones sit well with you? Do you relate to one or more, or is there one model of disability that you don’t like?


Click on the button below to join in the conversation on our Linkedin post.

If you are interested to learn more about this subject or you would like to discuss this topic or give us feedback or your thoughts, please get in touch with us via the form below.