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Tributes To Social Model Of Disability Pioneer

Mike Oliver, who named and helped develop the Social Model Of Disability – which changed the lives of many thousands of people worldwide – has died at the age of 74.

His passing has been mourned by many disability activists who saw his theories as a starting point for attempts to change their role in society. The Social Model developed on work started in the 1970s by the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS), of which he was a member. This drew a distinction between ‘disability’ which was created by society – caused by the physical environment, inappropriate or inaccessible services and attitudes and a lack of understanding – and a person’s individual impairments. It came to be seen in opposition to what became known as the ‘medical model’ which saw these impairments as the source of disabled people’s problems.

He originally named the theory in 1983 and his 1990 book, The Politics Of Disablement expanded on these ideas. He was the UK’s first Professor of Disability Studies, based at Leeds University’s Centre For Disability Studies although he also spent several years before his retirement working at the University Of Greenwich. He died following a short illness.


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