Access = Inclusion = Belonging
Trinity disAbility Hub opens in January 2022 in Printing House Square. This square the first new square in over a hundred years intends to be an inclusive space. Our inclusive statement below outlines our welcome to all.
Trinity is fully committed to the social model of disability, which is a useful tool for explaining the challenges presented to disabled people by their external environment, as well as a practical strategy for developing inclusive service provision in Trinity. It theorises disability as a product of the barriers individuals face because of environmental and attitudinal factors, rather than situating the problem with the individual.
Our world is becoming increasingly diverse and ever more interconnected. Disabled people are not a homogenous group. We now have more access, we are now participating in university life, and we want to be more inclusive and belong.
To be fully engaged community members in the 21st century, we need to embrace diversity & inclusion. In the classroom, in the workplace, in clubs and societies – indeed, in all aspects of life – we must be able to navigate difference, develop empathy and continue to learn the value of engagement with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and perceptions.
Use of language is important and where people identify themselves is a journey. Using either disabled students or students with disabilities is a complex paradigm (see below). Most disabled students enter Trinity with little or no awareness of the social model and how society and environment impact them. How disability and disabled people are referred to can be limiting and harmful. One way to change detrimental attitudes or stigma toward disability is to intentionally use more inclusive language that dignifies people’s self-image and expectations. Definitions of socially constructed concepts such as those above are important to understand when talking about disability and using inclusive language.
Person-first and identity first orientation are both used by people when referring to themselves and their disability.
- Person-first: Person with a disability
- Identity-first: Disabled person
The ethos of the Trinity College Dublin Disability Service is to move from a transactional model of provision - where students are passive recipients of supports - to a transformational model, where students take an active part in planning their educational journey and understand their disability.
We want to create a learning environment for students that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives, and experiences, and honours your identities (including race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, ability, neurotype etc.).
- disAbility: describes the activity being provided yet focuses on the positive aspect of the term, ‘Ability.’ It allows individuals to choose where they place the emphasis based on their preference.
- Hub: will be based at the centre of this new hive of activity and will become the point on the Trinity campus from which all disability related activity/enterprise will emanate.
Disabled people or people with disabilities?
From a Social Model perspective, the term ‘Disabled people’ is a political term that people with impairments or differences use to emphasise the social cause and nature of the exclusion and discrimination we face as people with impairments or differences, disabled by society.
Using the term ‘Disabled people’ or ’Disabled person’ is not a value judgment on what people can or cannot do, but a political description of the shared, disabling experience that people with impairments or differences face in society. It is used to bring together a very diverse group of people with impairments or differences to identify the causes of our discrimination and oppression, communicate shared experience and knowledge, and create social change.
Non-Social Model language/Medical Model language such as “a person with disabilities” confuses impairment and disability and implies disability is an individual matter – something a person “has”. This is wrong. It is the disabling barriers operating in society that disables us, not our impairments or differences. The Social Model of Disability is central to the struggle for inclusion and equality for Disabled people. However, as with any model, there are challenges to the Social Model approach. Two current areas of challenge are:
- The creation & promotion of a Biopsychosocial Model of Disability
- Criticism by Disabled people
The Social Model of Disability
The Social Model of Disability, developed over the last 40 years by Disabled people, is a radically different Model to the Medical and Charitable approach to disability described above. It states that people have impairments or differences but that the oppression, exclusion, and discrimination people with impairments or differences face is not an inevitable consequence of having an impairment or differences but is caused instead by the way society is run and organised.
The Social Model of Disability holds that people with impairments or differences are ‘disabled’ by the barriers operating in society that exclude and discriminate against them.
Here are diagrams of the Social and Medical Models of Disability that shows some of the thinking and assumptions of this Model.
The Social Model not only identifies society as the cause of disability but, equally importantly, it provides a way of explaining how society goes about disabling people with impairments or differences. Sometimes referred to as a “barriers-approach”, the Social Model provides a “route map” that identifies both the barriers that disable people with impairments or differences and how these barriers can be removed, minimised or countered by other forms of support.
Key disabling barriers from a Social Model approach include:
These are social and cultural attitudes and assumptions about people with impairments or differences that explain, justify and perpetuate prejudice, discrimination and exclusion in society; for example, assumptions that people with certain impairments or differences can’t work, can’t be independent, can’t have sex, etc.
These are barriers linked to the physical and built environment and cover a vast range of barriers that prevent equal access, such as stairs/ steps, narrow corridors and doorways, kerbs, inaccessible toilets, inaccessible housing, poor lighting, poor seating, broken lifts or poorly managed street and public spaces.
These are barriers linked to information and communication, such as lack of British Sign Language interpreters for Deaf people, lack of provision of hearing induction loops, lack of information in different accessible formats such as Easy Read, plain English and large font.
Barriers “disable” by creating exclusion, discrimination, and disadvantage for people with impairments or differences. The Social Model, in highlighting the barrier, often simultaneously identifies the solution to the barrier; for example:
- Barrier: The intercom in a block of flats does not have a video camera, therefore Deaf/hard of hearing residents cannot establish who is seeking entry.
- Solution: Install an intercom system with video for Deaf and hard of hearing residents.
- Additional benefits: Elderly people and other people who may feel vulnerable feel more secure in the accommodation.
Likewise, from a Social Model perspective, to enable Disabled people to achieve genuine independent living requires a range of support to be in place in society to counter the effects of discrimination and oppression. These are known as the ‘pillars of independent living’, which are:
- Appropriate and accessible information
- An adequate income
- Appropriate and accessible health and social care provision
- A fully accessible transport system
- Full access to the environment
- Adequate provision of technical aids and equipment
- Availability of accessible and adapted housing
- Adequate provision of personal assistance
- Availability of inclusive education and training
- Equal opportunities for employment
- Availability of independent advocacy and self-advocacy
- Availability of peer counselling
The Social Model of Disability is dynamic and effective in that it focuses on barriers and solutions to such barriers and, in doing so, maps out an approach to inclusion and equality that is of benefit to society as a whole, not just Disabled people.