- Models of Disability
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Equality Act 2010
- Independent Living
1. Models of Disability
Definitions and the language used are important because they form the basis of models. Models are not scientific or philosophical theories or ideologies. They are merely ways of looking at things or situations. There are two predominant models of disability commonly in use in the UK; the Medical Model and the Social Model.
Under the Medical Model, disabled people are defined by their illness or medical condition. They are disempowered: Medical diagnoses are used to regulate and control access to social benefits, housing, education leisure and employment.
The medical Model promotes the views of a disabled person as dependent and needing to be cured or cared for, and it justifies the way in which disabled people have been systematically excluded from society. Control resides firmly with professionals.
Choices for the individual are limited to the options provided and approved by the ‘helping’ expert.
The Medical Model is sometimes known as the ‘individual model’ because it promotes the notion that it is the individual disabled person who must adapt to the way in which society is constructed and organised.
The Medical Model is vigorously rejected by organisations of disabled people but it still pervades in many attitudes towards disabled people.
The Social Model
The Social Model has been developed by disabled people in response to the Medical Model and the impact this has on their daily lives.
Under the Social Model, disability is caused by the society in which we live and is not the ‘fault’ of an individual disabled person, or an inevitable consequence of their limitations.
Disability is the product of the physical, organisational and attitudinal barriers present within society, which lead to discrimination. The removal of discrimination requires a change of approach and thinking in the way in which society is organised.
The Social Model takes account of disabled people as part of our economic, environmental and cultural society. The barriers that prevent an individual taking part in society are the problem, not the individual.
Barriers still exist in education, information and communications systems, working environments, health and social support services, transport, housing, public buildings and amenities. The devaluing of disabled people through negative images in the media – films, television and newspapers – also acts as a barrier.
The Social Model has been developed with the aim of removing barriers so that disabled people can have the same opportunity as everyone else to determine their own life styles.
A simple example is that of a wheelchair user. He/she would not be disabled if he/ she lived in an environment which provided the ability to gain full access to buildings and their facilities in the same way that someone without his or her impairment could do.
The Social Model of disability has fundamentally changed the way in which disability is regarded and has had a major impact on anti-discriminatory legislation.
Inclusive Design Hub is based on the Social Model of disability. This model underpins the UNCRPD (Convention on the rights of disabled people)
2. United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international human rights agreement written by and for disabled people.
It is for people who have a long-term physical, mental, learning or sensory impairment who may face barriers to participating equally in society.
The Convention places obligations on the UK and Scottish Governments to take steps to make sure disabled people enjoy their human rights in the same way as others.
Disabled people and the Commissions play an important role to protect, promote and monitor the implementation of these rights.
If you, your family members or friends have a disability, this Convention offers useful information and encouragement. It guides you and your family – and friends who want to help you – in exercising your rights. It also defines the actions governments must take to help all disabled people realise their rights.
It is important to remember that the rights in this Convention are not new rights. They are the same human rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees that these rights are respected for disabled people.
The principles (main beliefs) of this Convention are:
- Respect for everyone’s inherent dignity, freedom to make their own choices and independence
- Non-discrimination (treating everyone fairly) Full participation and inclusion in society (being included in your community)
- Respect for differences and accepting disabled people as part of human diversity
- Equal opportunity
- Accessibility (having access to transportation, places and information, and not being refused access because you have a disability)
- Equality between men and women (having the same opportunities whether you are a girl or a boy)
- Respect for the evolving capacity of disabled children and their rights to preserve their identity (being respected for your abilities and proud of who you are)
3. Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. The Equality Act brings together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act. Combined, they make up an Act that provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all.
The Act simplifies, strengthens and harmonises legislation to provide Britain with a discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
The nine main pieces of legislation that have merged are:
- The Equal Pay Act 1970
- The Sex Discrimination Act 1975
- The Race Relations Act 1976
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
- The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
- The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
- The Equality Act 2006, Part 2
- The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
4. Independent Living
Independent Living is a right shared by everyone in Scotland. It is a legal right and a human right. It means we are all entitled to have choice, control, dignity and freedom over our own lives so that we can participate in society as equal citizens.
That means disabled people and those with long-term conditions. However, many disabled people find it difficult or impossible to participate fully in society. Whether in learning, working, volunteering, taking part in politics or sport many disabled people are denied access to opportunities or do not achieve the same results as other people who are not disabled. There are lots of reasons for this including policies and practices that discriminate against disabled people, people’s attitudes and of course poorly designed and managed buildings, streets, and transport.
The Scottish Government’s Commitment to Independent Living
The Scottish Government is committed to delivering equality and human rights for disabled people across Scotland by addressing independent living.
The rights to independent living are enshrined within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Equality Act 2010.
The UNCRPD is an international human rights agreement written by and for disabled people. It states that disabled people have and should enjoy the same human rights as everyone else.
Scotland’s approach to implementing the Convention complements the Scottish Government’s existing work to promote disability equality and independent living for all disabled people.
The basic rights of independent living
Human rights and rights to independent living mean that disabled people should have access to the right support and practical assistance, at the right time, in order to participate in society. This support includes things like access to education and employment, accessible and adapted housing, technical aids, communication support, information, advocacy, personal assistance and full access to transport and the built environment and rights to equal citizenship and to participate in society.
In Scotland there is a movement of disabled people and their organisations, including Access Panels, which aim to work together to overcome these barriers. They also aim to help service providers to get better at what they do.
There are many laws, regulations, policies and standards which aim to ensure that service providers work to remove these barriers but there are gaps in the law and what duties there are do not always get met.
Access Panels are groups of disabled people who can help service providers get better at meeting their duties and working to ensure that all disabled people can lead independent lives and participate fully in society. We can do this by working together with them and being involved in the decisions which affect our lives. One way of doing this is called working in coproduction. This means Access Panels and service providers working together equally, sharing resources, power and goals. Together we can get the best results.