Understanding Disability Models
There are a number of ‘models’ of disability which have been defined over the last few years. The two most frequently mentioned are the ‘social’ and the ‘medical’ models of disability.
The medical model of disability says people are disabled by their impairments or differences. Under the medical model, these impairments or differences should be 'fixed' or changed by medical and other treatments, even when the impairment or difference does not cause pain or illness. The medical model looks at what is 'wrong' with the person, not what the person needs. It creates low expectations and leads to people losing independence, choice and control in their own lives.
The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organised. It identifies systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently) that mean society is the main contributory factor in disabling people. While physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychological variations may cause individual functional limitation or impairments, these do not have to lead to disability unless society fails to take account of, and include people regardless of their individual differences.
Identity-First Autistic follows the social model of disability. When we use the word disabled, we are referring to disability as a natural part of human diversity and without negative connotations.