The Social Model of Disability

Back to all Motions

2002 National Disabled Members' Conference
27 June 2002
Carried as Amended

This Conference expresses its deep concern that the Social Model of Disability has been publicly criticised by Disability Rights Commissioner, Colin Low, who claimed that it contains important “truths” but also a significant amount of falsehood that “distorts reality in ways which are potentially damaging to disabled people”.

Conference notes that over the past three decades the Social Model of Disability has:

1)Provided a framework for disabled people to embrace each other through common experience of institutional discrimination;

2)Given us the tools to rid ourselves of the personal blame of impairment that is placed on us by society at large;

3)Shifted the emphasis of cause of the problem from us to the real problems in social organisation;

4)Given us reason to refuse to internalise disability discrimination;

5)Challenged age old views that disabled people are pathetic, dependants and victims of personal tragedy who are only responded to as recipients of welfare or charity and that society would be much better off without us around.

This Conference instructs the National Disabled Members’ Committee to:

a)Restate support from the disabled members self-organised group to maintain the national union’s policy to support the Social Model of Disability and;

b)Call upon the National Executive Council to ensure that the union’s policy on the Social Model of Disability will underpin all UNISON disability-related publications and advice.

c)Support the position of disability organisations to push for legislative review that is based on the social model of disability and not on a continuum expansion of the medical model definition.