Social groups: Disability

Medical model:

  • Views disability as a product of impairment’ (Bulsara, 2005)
  • Focus is on physical difference, e.g. blindness, being wheelchair bound
  • Disabled defined as a group whose bodies do not function normally and are not capable of enjoying a normal lifestyle

Social model:

  • Views disability as the outcome of social barriers
  • Focus is on obstacles and discriminatory practices that those with disabilities face
  • Recognises that some people face impairments, but highlights barriers that exist preventing these people from having an ordinary lifestyle.


  • —Sancho – 5 TV channels, 11% of people shown were disabled people.
  • —Ofcom – 12% disabled people on TV but many were same characters.
  • —Symbolic annihilation/ Marginalisation
  • —Barnes- Recurring stereotypes – pitiful, helpless, object of curiosity etc.
  • —Ross- disabled viewers critical of representations
  • —Becomes the defining feature of the character –similar to sexuality.


  • —Increase in disability on mainstream channels e.g. Last Leg, Undateables, Seven dwarfs etc.
  • —But not all of these are positive- still object of ridicule?
  • —Underrepresentation supported by Ross -for a disability news story to be newsworthy it must be sensational.
  • —Consequences/ implications = creates a distorted view.
  • —Paralympics has helped increase understanding and awareness.
  • —Mental disability on TV has improved- BBC3 mental health season, will physical disability follow this positive pattern?

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