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Manchester Disabled People's Access Group

Manchester Disabled People's Access Group

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The Social Model of Disability

The Social Model of Disability has been adopted by MDPAG and many other disabled people’s organisations and public sector organisations and explains how different barriers are what disable people. It recognises that it is the removal of barriers that support inclusion.

This is an alternative way of understanding access issues and social exclusion and sees the problem as a “disabling world”. All the following issues are examples of situations which can be changed and allow disabled people to participate in mainstream society.

  • badly designed buildings and/or
  • no accessible transport or parking spaces and/or
  • poor job prospects and/or
  • small print format and/or
  • little or no recognition or or use of sign languages, Braille or use of raised letters and/or
  • segregated education and/or
  • academic and physical achievements which are considered to be most important in judging people’s contributions to work and society and/or
  • negative attitudes and negative media images of disabled people and/or
  • poverty and low income and/or
  • isolation and exclusion from activities, work and social events that friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues choose to do and/or
  • lack of knowledge about or commitment to improving access to equality and/or
  • lack of commitment to supporting disabled people in fighting discrimination and equality

Some of these issues can be resolved by consulting with disabled people, changing attitudes, policies and practices, rethinking budget priorities and expenditure, challenging barriers and exploring why our society doesn’t treat all its members as equal. Other issues may need radical political decisions.

For more information, training, and discussions around these issues, contact your local disabled people’s group or contact us at

Acknowledgements: This version of the social model of disability has been adapted from models developed by Unison NW and Pam Thomas.

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