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RFVP Disability Inclusion and Safety Resource Hub

Models of disability

The Disability Inclusion and Safety Resource Hub has been developed for organisations and practitioners who are working with people with disability who are experiencing or using family violence. 

The Resource Hub provides ready access to important resources that promote safety, accessibility, equity and inclusion of people with disability which can aid in reducing barriers and increasing safety.  Resources are relevant to Organisational Leaders, Specialist Family Violence and Sexual Assault Practitioners, Disability Services, Health, Family Support, Education and others.


There have been many models used to understand disability over time.

Most people with disability subscribe to the Social Model and Human Rights Model of disability.

The Social Model aims to make society more accessible by removing stigma and discrimination. It focuses on barriers to access that are created by mainstream society and asserts that people with disability are disabled by the environment they live in, and not by the features of their own bodies.

While the Social Model is still used in disability advocacy today, there are a number of flaws with this framework. The Human Rights Model of Disability extends from the social model and tells us that disability cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate or deny access and opportunity. Equality does not mean treating everyone the same, and governments have a responsibility to support people with disabilities.

These flaws have been addressed through the development of the Human Rights Model. The Human Rights Model:

▪ Recognises that disability is a natural part of human diversity that must be respected and supported in all its forms.
▪ Recognises people with disability as experts in all matters that affect them.
▪ Recognises that equality does not mean treating everyone the same.
▪ Places accountability on governments to take action.

The gender equality approach means understanding that people are treated differently based on both their gender and disability.

Not all models of disability are empowering of people with disability, for example according to the Medical Model, ‘disability’ is a health condition dealt with by medical professionals. People with disability are thought to be different to ‘what is normal’ or abnormal. ‘Disability’ is seen ‘to
be a problem of the individual. From the Medical Model, a person with disability is in need of being fixed or cured. From this point of view, disability is a tragedy and people with disability are to be pitied. The Medical Model of disability is all about what a person cannot do and cannot be.

Models of disability are helpful in understanding the experience of people with disability and the society, systems, attitudes and barriers that exists around them.


How we talk about disability matters! Understanding models of disability

About this resource: Disability Advocacy Resource Unit’s (DARU) summary of the models of disability. 

Applying this resource: For organisations and practitioners.   

Understanding Disability Guide - Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program

About this resource:

The purpose of this guide is to provide information to workforces in disability, social services and violence prevention on how Women with Disabilities Victoria (WDV) understands disability, and how WDV want key stakeholders, policy makers, planners and other organisations to think about disability.  

This guide is based on the Understanding Disability video. It explores 6 keystones, co-designed by women with disabilities, to provide understanding of respectful engagement and planning with women with disabilities. 

Understanding Disability Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbmHHBuKvCg 

Applying this resource: For specialist family violence and sexual assault organisations and practitioners working with people with disability experiencing family violence.    

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