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Including All of Our Lives:
Renewing the social model of disability

Written by Liz Crow
Encounters With Strangers, Ed. J Morris, Women’s Press, 1996.
En español: en español
Auf Deutsch:Das gesamte Leben einbeziehen: Eine Erneuerung des sozialen Modells der Behinderung (1996)

My life has two phases: before the social model of disability, and after it. Discovering this way of thinking about my experiences was the proverbial raft in stormy seas.  It gave me an understanding of my life, shared with thousands, even millions, of other people around the world, and I clung to it.

This was the explanation I had sought for years.  Suddenly what I had always known, deep down, was confirmed.  It wasn’t my body that was responsible for all my difficulties, it was external factors, the barriers constructed by the society in which I live.   I was being dis‑abled ‑ my capabilities and opportunities were being restricted ‑ by prejudice, discrimination, inaccessible environments and inadequate support.  Even more important, if all the problems had been created by society, then surely society could un‑create them.  Revolutionary!

For years now this social model of disability has enabled me to confront, survive and even surmount countless situations of exclusion and discrimination.  It has been my mainstay, as it has been for the wider disabled people’s movement.  It has enabled a vision of ourselves free from the constraints of disability (oppression) and provided a direction for our commitment to social change.  It has played a central role in promoting disabled people’s individual self‑worth, collective identity and political organisation.  I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that the social model has saved lives.  Gradually, very gradually, its sphere is extending beyond our movement to influence policy and practice in the mainstream.  The contribution of the social model of disability, now and in the future, to achieving equal rights for disabled people is incalculable.

So how is it that, suddenly, to me, for all its strengths and relevance, the social model doesn’t seem so water‑tight anymore?  It is with trepidation that I criticise it.  However, when personal experience no longer matches current explanations, then it is time to question afresh.

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  • The pivotal chapter is undoubtedly Liz Crow’s Including All of Our Lives… Liz
    Crow’s challenge to [the] orthodoxy is both fundamental and sustained… The echoes can be heard throughout the book as a whole.

    British Journal of Social Work
  • Brave and provocative

    Everywoman magazine
  • Her intervention going so bravely against the grain of disability rhetoric and acceptability, will have a major impact on the movement.

    Dr Tom Shakespeare
  • Probably the definitive essay on the subject

    Biodiverse blog

    Additional Reviews

To cite this page: Crow, Liz (1996) Including All of Our Lives: Renewing the social model of disability, Roaring Girl Productions [online] [Available at:] [Accessed 19/06/2024]