Fitting in, standing out or just being yourself - The Social Model of Disability

November 02, 2017

Welcome to our second blog from ‘Inclusion – that’s a good idea!’

These blogs aim to showcase great resources for helping organisations both large and small be more inclusive of disabled young people.  In this week’s blog we take a look at using the book ‘Winnie the Witch’, to help young people understand the Social Model of Disability.

Using story books, videos and other narratives is a powerful way of helping young people understand the experiences of others and demonstrating how to approach situations differently without the need to discuss an individual’s own circumstances with the rest of the group.  Scope also highlights some other good books for exploring topics around disability.


The Social Model of Disability

Many disabled people experience discrimination when they try to do every day activities because their conditions can mean that things have to be done in a different way. But too often service providers are unwilling to accommodate differences and expect the disabled person to conform or adapt to fit in.  This is despite the legal requirement to provide reasonable adjustments as laid out in the 2010 Equalities Act.

We believe that people with conditions that affect their daily lives are disabled by the barriers, attitudes and discrimination of wider society.  This is the ‘Social Model of Disability’ and it’s a concept that was recognised and developed by disabled people and is increasingly used to inform the work of organisations from National Government down to local sports and activity clubs in the UK.

Scope describe it as ‘The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people. When barriers are removed, disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives.

Disabled people developed the social model of disability because the traditional medical model did not explain their personal experience of disability or help to develop more inclusive ways of living.’

They have a video for adults which leaders may find helpful in understanding more about the model.

Helping Children understand

As a group leader, offering activities for children in an inclusive way, understanding the Social Model of Disability and helping the young people who attend your groups to know more about it might be a really helpful way of addressing the different needs, skills and interests in your members.

But it’s a pretty challenging concept for lots of adults to consider so making it accessible to young people needs a little bit of magic maybe…..

Scope have written some fantastic notes to accompany the book  Winnie The Witch by Valerie Thomas (Oxford University Press, 1987), illustrations copyright © Korky Paul 1987

Scope uses the story to show how society often expects a disabled person to change how they are to meet society’s norms or needs and how this means they person is not being accepted as they are.

In the story Winnie lives in a house in which everything is black, including her cat.  Which means she frequently trips over him so she decides to use her magic to change his colour to see him more easily in the house’s environment.  She makes him green, which is great until she’s out on her green grass and trips over him again.  So she casts a spell to make him multicoloured, but he feels unhappy because he is now so different and really stands out.  In the end Winnie comes to the realisation that it’s not fair to keep making Wilber change so she uses her magic to change the colours in her home instead and Wilber can just be himself.

Illustrations copyright © Korky Paul 1987


Read the notes from Scope to find out how to use this story to illustrate the barriers disabled people can face when they are just being themselves and trying to do every day things in their local communities.

We’d love to hear how you use stories or narratives to help young people to be more inclusive of their disabled peers and if you found Scope’s resource useful please do let us know.


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