There are nearly 13 million disabled people in Great Britain, nearly one in five of the population.

What is disability?

The law says you are disabled if you have “a physical or mental impairment, which has substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out day-to-day activities” (Disability Discrimination Act).

The social model of disability

Many of us have impairments, like needing glasses or having asthma. But we only become disabled if society puts barriers in the way of us leading normal lives, such as narrow doorways or steps for a wheelchair user. This is called the social model of disability.

We've compiled some ideas to help teach students about disability from this angle.

Lesson idea

1. Write a diary of what you did today. Now imagine you are disabled. How would your day be different? What would you still be able to do and what would you not be able to do? Where could you go and where not? Now underline all the barriers you faced.

2. Make a list of the barriers you faced and think about solutions to them.

  • Barrier: Narrow door
  • Solution: Widen the door
  • Barrier: Name calling
  • Solution: Work with the class to see why this is unfair and hurtful

3. Now think of your school. How many barriers would disabled pupils face? Write a letter to the Governors making a case to remove these barriers in your school.

4. On a large sheet of paper draw a diagram of yourself in the middle and draw symbols for all the people and things that support your life, such as your family, shops, school, bus, family car, holidays, house, furniture, computer, toys, doctor, hospital, police, fire service, Council, bank and so on. You may need to think of things your parents or carers do that support you.

5. Next to each of these symbols draw a box and note down what would make getting this support difficult or impossible.

All those who provide a service to the public such as schools, hospitals, Councils, the police, Government and the BBC, will be required to promote disability equality by law. This will include:

  • a. Stopping discrimination on grounds of disability in jobs and in the services they provide.
  • b. Stopping name calling and bullying based on physical or mental difference.
  • c. Encouraging disabled people to take part in things like school councils or becoming Governors or Councillors.

6. For your school, write about what will have to change and how this could happen.