Disability studies: what’s the point?

  • Colin Barnes university of Leeds
Palabras clave: disability, social model, discrimination, activism


Unlike previous courses dealing with ‘disability’ related concerns in Britain and elsewhere, the focus was and remains clustered around the re-definition of disability by disabled people and their organisations and, what is generally referred to as the ‘social model of disability’. One, in contrast to the conventional individual medical model of disability, it is a de-liberate attempt to switch the focus away from the functional limitations of impaired individuals onto the problems caused by disabling environments, barriers and cultures. It is an holistic approach that explains specific problems experienced by disabled people in terms of the totality of disabling environments and cultures. This includes inaccessible education, information and communication systems, working environments, inadequate disability benefits, discriminatory health and social support services.The UPIAS re-definition of ‘disability’ was adopted by the international disabled people’s move-ment, as represented by Disabled People’s International, in 1981; albeit the terms ‘disability’ and ‘handicap’ were initially substituted for the words ‘impairment’ and ‘disability’ because of concern over the term ‘impairment’.


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