Health & Safety Department

The Social Model of Disability

Description of the The Social Model of Disability

The social model was developed by disabled people and it is supported by the University. The model says that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment. If these barriers are removed, a person may still have an impairment but would not experience disability.

What are these barriers?

  • Attitudinal barriers: people’s fear, ignorance, low expectations and assumptions about what would be best for disabled people. 
  • Environmental barriers: inaccessible buildings due to their design, lack of ramps, lifts and accessible bathrooms. Outside, lack of dropped pavement kerbs, no textured pavement at a crossing or noise to let people with visual impairments know when to cross.
  • Organisational barriers: meetings starting too early for people who need support to get up in the morning and arrange accessible transport to arrive in time.
  • Communication barriers: These can arise when the print size is too small, no image descriptions included and lack of British sign language interpreters.

The social model helps us recognise the barriers that make life harder for disabled people. Removing these barriers creates equality and offers disabled people more independence, choice and control.

Inclusion Scotland’s: Social Model animation video