I do not follow the social model of disability.
…and before you get preemptively angry. I’m not a medical model person either.
A couple of weekends ago I met a lovely man. He was telling me about the difficulty that his daughter had with plane seats – she needed support to sit up and almost all the products that would help were banned by airlines or where both massively unsuitable or prohibitively expensive.
This was after a fairly long group discussion on the topic which mostly focused on the (important and noble) goals of getting the airlines to agree official policy and make sensible exceptions. I utterly support this approach – I think that airlines (and similar setups involving seating) should be all over this and I think pressure should be applied to make it so. It’s a very classic social model approach and I have no doubt that in several years (hopefully much less) it will bear fruit.
However, a couple of years is a long time not to take your daughter on holiday, and so the solution turned out to be that she was supported by a big roll of toilet tissue on either side of her during the flight. I loved that approach so much because it was so close to how I think. Today – you solve the problem in front of you. It might not work tomorrow, but you’ll deal with that tomorrow. It might not work for anyone else, but family comes first.
This is the ‘hacker model’. It’s not technology limited either – it’s the mindset you often find in service users, social workers, SLTs, elder brothers and sisters, care staff. They are not trying to ‘fix’ anyone, and they are not trying to change the world today.
At the risk of overplaying the point I think the difference is this:
Medical Model: With advances in stem cell research I think we can find a way that we can make that man able to swim.
Social Model: If we reduced the depth of the water, even in just one section of the swimming pool then that man would be able to enjoy the swimming pool without restriction.
Hacker’s Model: My friend is drowning, I’m throwing them a rope.
Yes I believe in long term social change, yes I support it. I also support medical research. But my heart and my instincts belong to the people who make life better with duct tape or an afternoon welding something in a shed. These are temporary measures but, as the great Pratchett has said “life was no more than a series of temporary measures strung together”. And I think it’s an important distinction: there is a space between medical and social and a lot of good is done there.
EDIT: relevant Twitter conversation…