A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People: delivery plan

A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People is our delivery plan to 2021 for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Defining disability

The social model of disability

This Delivery Plan supports the social model of disability, which was developed by disabled people: activists who started the 'Independent Living Movement' ( ILM).

Unlike the medical model, where an individual is understood to be disabled by their impairment, the social model views disability as the relationship between the individual and society. In other words, it sees the barriers created by society, such as negative attitudes towards disabled people, and inaccessible buildings, transport and communication, as the cause of disadvantage and exclusion, rather than the impairment itself. The aim, then, is to remove the barriers that isolate, exclude and so disable the individual.

Language which is inclusive of all

By using positive and empowering words we can change the way people see disability. Negative language carries many messages; it categorises, labels and stereotypes. It can demean and devalue; it can dehumanise, exclude and disempower. There are many examples of misused language, which debases disabled people and is outdated and offensive. To remove the barriers created by negative language, we need to use and encourage appropriate language. Different countries have different guidelines. In some countries, the term 'people with disabilities' is commonly used. In Scotland, the term 'disabled people' is preferred. In other countries there isn't yet a word for disabled.

Language can also be positive, reinforcing the positive message of inclusion, defining a disability tool/phrase by 'what it does' rather than 'who it is for'. 'Disabled parking' is increasingly known as 'accessible parking'; disabled toilets are increasingly referred to as 'accessible toilets'.

All disabled people

If we are to achieve our aim of full equality and human rights for disabled people in Scotland, then we must take account of all disabled people, including disabled children, young people and older people. We also have to understand how other characteristics such as age, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being a Gypsy Traveller can impact on a disabled person's experiences and use this understanding to shape our actions. And we must be aware of the particular issues affecting disabled people living in rural or island communities.

Opinions about identifying as 'disabled' can also vary between individuals or groups. For example, most deaf people who use British Sign Language identify themselves as a linguistic or cultural minority rather than as disabled people.


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