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Almost 75% of UK disabled people haven’t heard of the social model, survey finds

Nearly three-quarters of disabled people in the UK have not heard of the social model of disability, a YouGov survey commissioned by the social enterprise Evenbreak has revealed.

The social model, according to the disability charity Scope, argues individuals are “disabled by barriers in society” – as opposed to the medical model of disability which says someone is disabled by their “impairment or difference”. It was reportedly created by disabled people in the 1980s.

The poll of more than 3,000 disabled people also found 21% of disabled people identified as the name of their condition (such as Deaf or blind), while 20% said they were a person with disabilities. 30% of respondents said they had no preference.

Jane Hatton, Evenbreak’s CEO, said of the statistics: “The social model of disability is important to understand because it helps us to break down barriers in society. We educate employers using the social model of disability to make employment accessible for disabled people.

“For disabled people, the social model of disability helps us see that the barriers are external to our conditions. This provides us with a platform to champion change in society to make it equitable for all.”

One in five people in the UK are disabled, with 14.1 million disabled people in the country in total. Just over half of these (52%) are in employment.

Commenting on Evenbreak’s findings, Scope’s head of communications Alison Kerry said: “At Scope, we use the social model because it recognises the external barriers, physical and attitudinal, that make life tougher for disabled people.  

“If you’re a wheelchair user and you can’t get into a building, it’s not because you’re in a wheelchair. It’s because no one installed an accessible ramp.  

“Removing these barriers can help us reach equality and a society where disabled people have more independence, choice and control.

“However it’s important to respect the language disabled people prefer to use. There are over 14 million disabled people in the UK, with different identities, experiences and backgrounds. Not everyone uses the social model, and how anyone chooses to talk about their impairment or condition is up to them.”

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