chapter  2
18 Pages

Understanding the social model of disability: past, present and future

ByColin Barnes

As someone with a congenital visual impairment with working class disabled parents, I grew up with impairment and disability. I found the social model of disability in the 1980s in a book by Mike Oliver (1983), Social Work with Disabled People, when I entered university to study disability. It summarized what I already knew about disability: that people with any form of accredited impairment are disabled by an unjust and uncaring society. It has influenced my work ever since. Subsequently, thinking inspired by the social model has had a major impact on policy circles and universities across the world. Yet in many respects there remains a general misunderstanding about what the social model actually is and what it is for.