Disability A–Z

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines disability as any limitation, restriction or impairment that restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months. There are a number of ‘models’ of disability which have been defined over the last few years. The two most often mentioned are the ‘social’ and the ‘medical’ models of disability.

Medical model of disability

The medical model of disability sees disability as a ‘problem’ that belongs to the individual. It isn’t seen as an issue for others, just the person who is affected. For example, if a student using a wheelchair is unable to get into a building because of some steps, the medical model would suggest that this is because of the person’s physical disability, rather than the steps.

Social model of disability

The social model of disability says that the way society is organised causes disability, rather than a person’s impairment or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for people with disability. When barriers are removed, people with disability can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives.

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