SPECTRUM’s Philosophies: 2: What is The Social Model of Disability?

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In this, the second of two main articles, SPECTRUM talks about its guiding philosophies – they dictate not just what we do, how we do it, but MOST IMPORTANTLY WHY WE DO IT

The two central philosophies are:

  • Independent Living
  • The Social Model of Disability

SPECTRUM was one of the organisations that helped define these philosophies. 30-40 years on, these terms are still widely misunderstood. In this the first of two articles, we’ll explain what we mean by these terms, and why they are so important to Disabled People around the world.

Our previous article discussed what Independent Living is and why it is so important to us. This article is about the Social Model of Disability.

More and more Disabled People are talking about the Social Model of Disability.

For many, understanding it has changed their lives. SPECTRUM sees it as its guiding philosophy, but it is still widely misunderstood. This article aims to explain the Social Model of Disability in non-academic terms.

The document serves as an introduction to these concepts. They are usually explored in more detail on Disability Equality training courses and Personal Development courses (available from SPECTRUM and many other organisations run and controlled by Disabled People). These courses enable Disabled People to relate the principles of the Social Model and Equality to their own life.

The Social Model of Disability has changed many people’s outlook on life – and it could change yours. If, after reading this, you would like to talk to people whose lives have been dramatically enhanced as a result of understanding and applying the Social Model, please contact SPECTRUM (info@spectrumcil.co.uk)

A different way of looking at ourselves

The Social Model of Disability enables Disabled People to look at themselves in a more positive way which increases self-esteem and independence.

Disabled People often feel a loss, for all the things they would like to do, but feel they cannot do; a loss of goals and dreams that seem unobtainable. Disabled People often feel they are a burden on family and friends, and a problem for doctors who cannot cure them.

This traditional view of disability is called “the Medical Model of Disability”, because it sees people as a medical problem. As a result, Disabled People are expected to see their impairment as their problem, something they will have to make the best of and accept that there are many things they simply cannot do (and cannot expect to be able to do).

It ignores how ‘bad’ a person’s impairment is. Instead it establishes that everyone should be considered equal and demonstrates that it is society that has negative attitudes about Disabled People, and it is society which erects ‘barriers’ that prevent Disabled People from participating and restricts their opportunities. Society is therefore said to ‘disable’ them.

How does the Social Model of Disability work?

The social model looks beyond a person’s impairment at all the relevant factors that affect their ability to be a full and equal participant in society.

What else is relevant?

The Social Model of Disability shows that it is barriers that disable people, not their impairments. For instance: heavy doors and inaccessible public transport are two examples of what makes travelling such a hassle – not the fact that someone has an impairment.

Every Disabled Person can make their own list of the barriers that limit their participation. When these barriers and other people’s negative attitudes are considered, it is easy to see how Disabled People’s opportunities are limited by a multitude of barriers.

The Social Model of Disability states that the solution is to remove these barriers, rather than the alternative Medical Model of Disability which relies for a solution on curing all people who have impairments. (Which in many cases is not possible, desirable or socially acceptable).

For a practical example, many people living with reduced eyesight are given a simple piece of equipment – a pair of glasses. Without them they would be excluded from full participation in society and would therefore be disabled by it.

Similarly, the social model solution to the fact that a wheelchair user is disabled because they cannot use public transport is simple – make public transport accessible to everyone, by way of ramps and high visibility guide rails!

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This Social Model of Disability approach to disability, which sees the problem as society’s barriers and attitudes, rather than the person’s impairment, allows Disabled People to lift the ‘blame’ from their shoulders and place it squarely onto society’s.

The Social Model of Disability empowers Disabled People to challenge society to remove the barriers that disable them.

table 2

It was Disabled People themselves who defined the Social Model of Disability. (See history section on the following page). They defined disability as:

 “the disadvantage or restriction caused by a society which takes little or no account of people who have impairments and excludes them from mainstream activity.”

The Social Model of Disability defines the words “Impairment” and “Disability” differently, as follows:

Impairment: Lacking part or all of a limb, or having a defective limb, organ or mechanism of the body.

Disability: The disadvantage of restriction or activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes little or no account of people who have impairments and thus excludes them from participation of in the mainstream of social activities. Disability is therefore a particular form of social oppression.

While physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychological variations may cause individual functional limitation or impairments, these do not have to lead to disabling outcomes or barriers unless society fails to take account of and include people regardless of their individual differences.

As a result of understanding the Social Model of Disability, many Disabled People now understand that it is society’s reaction to their impairment that is disabling, not the impairment itself.

A fundamental aspect of the Social Model of Disability concerns equality. The struggle for equality is often compared to the struggles of other socially marginalised groups. Equal rights give empowerment and the “ability” to make decisions and the opportunity to live life to the fullest.

The Social Model of Disability focuses on changes required in society. EG:

  • Attitudes, for example a more positive attitude towards Disabled People, or not underestimating the potential quality of life of those with impairments,
  • Social support, for example help dealing with barriers; resources, aids or positive discrimination to overcome them, for example providing a buddy to explain work culture for an employee with autism,
  • Information, for example using suitable formats (e.g. Braille) or plain English or coverage (e.g. explaining issues others may take for granted),
  • Physical structures, for example buildings with sloped access and lifts, or contrasting colour schemes to aid visually impaired people,
  • Flexible work hours for people with sleep disorders or, for example, for people who experience anxiety/panic attacks in rush hour traffic.

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A Brief history of the Social Model of Disability

In 1975, the UK organisation Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) claimed: “In our view it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society.”

In 1983, the disabled academic Mike Oliver coined the phrase “Social Model of Disability”. It was subsequently extended to include those with learning difficulties, people with emotional, mental health or behavioural difficulties, and others.

Further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_model_of_disability

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Disability Manifesto 2017: The NHS

With just a few more days till the General Election, SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living is today focusing on the NHS. The aim of the Disability Manifesto is to highlight the issues that Disabled People feel ALL political parties should commit to, following the General Election. We welcome your feedback on our Facebook page or via Twitter using the hashtag #DisMan17

 

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Disabled People, particularly People with Learning Difficulties or Mental Health Conditions, experience significant and persistent health inequalities and are likely to die younger than other people.i They are also much less likely to receive health checks, screening tests and other routine healthcare treatment.

Disabled People are less likely to report positive experiences in accessing healthcare services.

Despite a commitment by the Government to make improvements to the provision of mental health services, considerable shortcomings remain. Disabled adults are more likely to report poor mental health and wellbeing than non-disabled adults.

There is also considerable evidence of low levels of disability awareness among NHS staff, inadequate healthcare treatmentii and access barriers to health services.iii

We call on all political parties to commit to eliminating health inequalities faced by Disabled People by 2025. This is a challenging target but one that can be achieved if the will is there to do so.

We also call on all political parties to commit to ensuring that Disabled People are able to access NHS services on an equal basis as everyone else. This can be achieved as part of a wider improvement programme – particularly in primary care, where many people face difficulty accessing services because of restricted opening times and procedures.

We also call on all political parties to commit to ensuring that mental health services are given equal priority to physical health services in the NHS.

We also call on all political parties to guarantee to close, within the first year of the next Parliament, the remaining hospitals in England where People with Learning Difficulties are still being sent, despite promises to end the practice in the wake of the Winterbourne View abuse scandal.

If you want to read the full manifesto, please visit our Disability Manifesto page.

i Equality and Human Rights Commission (2010) How Fair is Britain, Equality, Human Rights and Good Relations in 2010’, Chapter 6; Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability (Northern Ireland) (2005) Equal Lives Review of Policy and Services for People with a Learning Disability in Northern Ireland, p. 29; NHS Health Scotland (2004) People with Learning Disabilities in Scotland: The Health Needs Assessment Report’;

ii Disability Rights Commission (2006) Equal Treatment – Closing the Gap. disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/DRC-Health-FI-main.pdf

iii Disability Rights Commission (2006) ‘Equal Treatment: Closing the Gap’; Redley M et al (2012) ‘Healthcare for men and women with learning disabilities: understanding inequalities in access’, Disability and Society, Vol. 27, No. 6: 747–759; BMA (2014) ‘Recognising the importance of physical health in mental health and intellectual disability’.

Baroness Jane Campbell and Sian Vasey Discuss SPECTRUM CIL’s Disability Manifesto 2017

SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living was delighted to welcome Baroness Jane Campbell, a cross bench peer in the House of Lords and Sian Vasey, a Disabled film maker, to Southampton to discuss all things Independent Living related with our Chief Executive, Ian Loynes. They covered a wide range of topics from employment to welfare reform, not forgetting Brexit of course. You can watch highlights of their conversation below.

All of them agreed that none of the political parties were yet offering a comprehensive disability strategy that would enable Disabled People to enjoy true equality within society.

If you want to read the full manifesto, please visit our Disability Manifesto page.

 

 

 

Summary of ‘Disability Manifesto’ now available

http://spectrumcil.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/PDF-GE2017-SUMMARY-VERSION-SPECTRUM-Newsletter-Special-Manifesto-Edition-May-2017.pdf

With the General Election just a week away, many people are still deciding on who they are going to vote for. The election campaign has been dominated by issues such as social care and welfare reform, although sadly the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester has focused everyone’s minds on the issue of safety and security.

Our ‘Disability Manifesto’ which sets out what Disabled People would like political parties to commit to doing in the next Parliament, has been a great success. We are aware that it is a fairly long document so we have summarised the key commitments for each topic area into a short document so people can see at a glance what Disabled People want the political parties to sign up to.

We hope this summary document will be easier for some people to access. We will also be tweeting out the key commitments between now and the big day as well as releasing a video with some very special guests discussing our manifesto so keep an eye on our blog and Facebook page over the next few days.

If you want to read the full manifesto, please visit our Disability Manifesto page

Disability Manifesto 2017: Welfare Reform

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Welfare Reform

The policies of austerity have hit Disabled People particularly badly. Since the Government’s Emergency Budget in 2010, Disabled People have seen massive cuts to their benefits and support services, including £18 billion from the benefits budget.

More Disabled People than non-disabled People are living in poverty. Welfare reforms have had a particularly disproportionate, cumulative impact on Disabled People’s rights to live independently and enjoy an adequate standard of living

UK data from 2015/16 shows that 26% of families where at least one member is disabled were living in poverty compared with 20% of families with no disabled members.

Across the UK, 18.4% of Disabled People aged 16-64 were considered to be in food poverty in 2014 compared with just 7.5% of non-disabled People. Disabled People over the age of 65 were twice as likely as non-disabled People in the same age group to be in food poverty: 6.8% compared with 3.3%.

Disabled People and Carers have already experienced a drop in income of £500 million since 2010 and most recently, one calculation is that with six simultaneous welfare cuts taking place, up to 3.7 million Disabled People will lose £28.3 billion of support by 2018. Twice as many Disabled adults live in persistent poverty compared with non-disabled adults.i

When the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the distance that a person was unable to walk in order to qualify for the enhanced mobility component and crucially access to Motability funding, was reduced from 50 metres to 20 metres.

Analysis of previously-released official data by Muscular Dystrophy UK shows that the number of people eligible for Motability funding has fallen in half during the reassessment process for PIP. Of the 254,200 people who were eligible for Motability funding under DLA who were reassessed for PIP by 31 October 2016, 126,300 people have lost access. 51,000 people have already returned their Motability funded cars.

These changes represent a serious threat to independence, social inclusion and quality of life. There are also serious risks to the economy with more Disabled People dropping out of work or education leading to increased poverty and isolation, with the associated health risks. This will inevitably lead to rising costs elsewhere, such as unemployment benefits, social care and the NHS.

What is even more unfair is that Disabled People are taking a bigger ‘hit’ from the cuts than any other group in society. A recent report by the Centre for Welfare Reform found that Disabled People, who make up 8% of the population, are being hit by a massive 29% of all cuts being implemented.ii This cannot be allowed to continue.

We call on all political parties to commit to undertaking, at the earliest opportunity, a cumulative impact assessment of the impact which welfare reform, changes to social care funding and eligibility criteria and the closure of the ILF will have on Disabled People. All further cuts to welfare benefits for Disabled People should be put on hold until this assessment has been completed.

We further call on all political parties to commit to a government-led inquiry into the incidence of suicides amongst Disabled People linked to benefit sanctions and to cuts in services.

We also call on all political parties to commit to guarantee that no Disabled People will lose vital support as a result of the change from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and to reverse the change to the 20 metre rule.

i British Household Survey 2005-08

Disability Manifesto: Employment

Yesterday, SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living launched The Disability Manifesto for the General Election 2017. The aim of the manifesto is to highlight the issues that Disabled People feel ALL political parties should commit to,  following the General Election. Over the coming days, we will be focusing on a particular section of the Disability Manifesto each day and welcome your feedback on our Facebook page or via Twitter using the hashtag #DisMan17download

Today, we are looking at the topic of Employment:

Employment

Reducing unemployment – especially long-term unemployment – and making the workplace fully inclusive and accessible to all are both vital to the UK’s economic recovery, but many Disabled People face a range of barriers to work and there is a still large and persistent disparity in the employment rates of Disabled People compared to non-disabled People and this gap has widened since 2010/11. Less than half (47.6%) of Disabled People in Britain are in work compared to almost 80% of non-disabled People.

The disability pay gap in Britain continues to widen. In 2015-16 there was a gap in median hourly earnings: Disabled People earned £9.85 compared with £11.41 for non-disabled People.

The next Government needs to address the gap between rhetoric on the need for more Disabled People to work and the lack of effective support for the many Disabled People who want to do so. Supporting Disabled People to work reduces dependence on benefits and increases the number of tax paying citizens contributing to the nation’s economy.

We call on all political parties to commit to halving the employment gap for Disabled People over the course of the next Parliament.

We call on all political parties to commit to eradicate the pay gap between Disabled People and non-disabled People.

We call on all political parties to commit to double the number of Disabled People benefiting from Access to Work support in the next 3 years.

Funding for Access to Work, which is proven to be effective in helping Disabled People to move into work and to stay in work, should be increased.

We also call on all political parties to commit to ensuring that Disabled People with complex support requirements have equal access to all employment support programmes.

If you want to read the full manifesto, please visit our Disability Manifesto page

SPECTRUM 2017 Disability Manifesto out now!

There are more than 13.3 million Disabled People and people with long-term health conditions in the UK – a very sizeable part of the electorate in 2017.

We believe it is essential for Disabled People’s voices to be heard in the debates around the 2017 General Election – not only because they represent a large number of votes but, more importantly, because they are deeply affected by so many of the key issues at the heart of political debate.

On the 25th May 2017, SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living will be launching our Disabled People’s DISABILITY MANIFESTO – a pragmatic and realistic range of proposals which shows how the Government, any Government, could address the unfairness, the indignities and the discrimination that Disabled People have faced because of austerity measures.manifestocover2017

 

The launch of the DISABILITY Manifesto will be the start of our campaign to bring the needs, and the solutions that Disabled People are proposing, to the eyes and minds of the electorate, and into the minds of politicians and policy makers.