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Colin Hambrook discusses a recent paper on the social model of disability / 17 April 2012

image of a foetus inside a womb, holding a mobile phone

Koert van Mensvoort, Next Nature Baby, 2008

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It feels like things are coming inexorably to a head. Running alongside a year of arts events being rolled out under the banner of the Cultural Olympiad, there is a growing sense of foreboding as the current tide of political changes threatens to change the state of play for disabled people in the struggle to maintain quality of life.

It seems that the vision of a society where everyone with lived experience of disability or health conditions can participate equally as full citizens, is being undermined as we look at changes happening with The Independent Living Fund (ILF), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Incapacity Benefit, Access to Work and Direct Payments - all measures that came into play as a result of the Disability Movements' campaigns for a fairer society.

Disabled People Against the Cuts has recently published an academic paper by Debbie Jolly, which I would urge everyone to read. At the core of 'A Tale of Two Models' is a history of the influence of the Social Model of Disability. Jolly reaffirms our understanding of Disability as a social construct; a power relationship between those who have self-determination and those who don't. She outlines how our understanding has become muddied in arguments pitting the medical model against the social model - and essentially how the bio-psychosocial model - currently in favour amongst influential bodies such as the big Disability Charities - is being used to support welfare reform.

How things play out over the course of this year is both exciting and worrying, in equal measure. Can Disability Arts continue to play a role that allows disabled peoples' voices and concerns to be heard? We've a plethora of Unlimited events, and Disability Arts Festivals in Liverpool and London. For example DaSH's M21, DaDaFest 2012 and Together 2012 all promise events by Disability Artists that challenge, as well as entertain. At the core of these arts is an ethos that looks at the barriers to disabled peoples' participation in society. At the end of the day it's about changing attitudes. Debbie Jolly explains in academic terms how we've much further to go than perhaps we imagined. I think we need more communication that spells the issues out in plainer english - and which offers paths to sharing experience.


richard downes

17 April 2012

i too enjoyed reading a tale of two models and have contributed a comment to it. As a thesis its a mite too long for a blog so do stick with it if you start it.