1. Social Model of Disability. Tom Shakespeare.

Key points and questions on the Social Model of Disability.

The medical model of disability sees the persons medical impairment as the reason for their limited function. The terminology that would be used is ‘people with disabilities’. They are defined in association with having a disability.

The social model of disability offers a distinct difference between impairment and disability. Impairment is the medical reason for a person’s limitation. Whereas disability is the loss or limitation on a person by societies environment and structure.

Tom Shakespeare says “Disability is now defined, not in functional terms, but as
“the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes little or no account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from participation in the mainstream of social activities.” (op cit)

The role of a disabilities support worker at UAL is to remove the barriers of the university environment and the student’s higher education to provide an inclusive and accessible space to everyone.

UAL’s policy on disability is structured around the social model of disability; they develop policies and practices to promote inclusive environments that achieve The Social Model’s goal of removing barriers for disabled people.

Terminology is said to be a key element to the social model movement and has been used to define and promote The Social Model’s message. Shakespeare stated that ‘it has had an impact on how disabled people see themselves … and to assert their right to equality’.

As a support worker, I was required to attend a DET (Disability Equality Training), which focuses on the barriers and attitudes that disabled people with impairments face. They highlight the` role of the organisation’s such as higher educational university into the removal of those barriers and attitudes. One way this is done it through the importance of ‘acceptable’ language.

Some key terms used in the social model.

– ‘People with visual impairments’ or ‘blind people’
– ‘a person with a hearing impairment’ or ‘a deaf person’ or ‘sign language user’
– ‘disabled person or ‘disabled people’

Does UAL have a unacceptable/ acceptable language for staff members at UAL like this one used at Glasgow’s Centre  for Inclusive Living?

Glasgow Social Model Language







Shakespeare, Tom. “The Social Model of Disability.” The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York: Routledge, 2010.

UAL Confidentiality Guide: (https://www.arts.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0028/28828/Disability-Service-Confidentiality-Guide-PDF-1.74KB.pdf)

Access Support and Facilities for Disabled Students at UAL: (https://www.arts.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0023/30767/Access-Support-and-Facilities-for-Disabled-Students-at-UAL-PDF-538KB.pdf)

UAL Disability Service website: (https://canvas.arts.ac.uk/sites/working-at-ual/SitePage/45674/disability-and-dyslexia)


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