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Disabled People and Employment

Definition of Disability

There are two main models when considering disabled people:

  • The Medical Model of Disability focuses on a person's impairment or medical condition, suggesting this is the cause of disabled people being unable to access goods and services, or to participate fully in society.
  • The Social Model of Disability recognises that it is the barriers that society creates that prevent disabled people from participating fully in daily life, and not their impairment or difference. Barriers can be physical, like buildings not having accessible toilets, or they can be caused by people's attitudes to difference, like assuming disabled people can't do certain things (Scope, 2020).

For purposes of employment law in the UK, a person is considered disabled if they have "a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out  normal day-to-day activities". This is based on the Equality Act (2010) definition, but would be considered to follow the medical model as it focuses on what disabled people cannot do.

However, the Social Model of Disability allows us to better identify, and tackle the barriers that disabled people face and as such it is the Scottish Government's and Disabled People's Organisations preferred model.  Likewise, we would encourage employers to adopt the Social Model when designing and modifying their policies, and in the way they interact with disabled people.

Further information on Disabled people and Employment can be found at:

Further information

To keep up to date on any developments or news with regards to disabled people in the workplace, please sign up for the Employability in Scotland e-bulletin from the Scottish Government. 

for more information on the work being done to reduce the disability employment gap in Scotland, please contact the Disability Employment Policy Team