Social model of disability

The Academy is informed by the social model in its understanding of disability. The social model focuses on how people are disabled by the restrictions that exist within society, rather than by their impairment or condition.

The social model provides a framework that focuses on removing barriers and creating a more inclusive environment. By using the social model, the Academy strives to provide an inclusive environment for students, staff and visitors who use Academy facilities.

In this model, it's important to understand that impairment and disability are different as explained by charity Sense:
An impairment is a functional difficulty someone experiences in their body or mind. If you have a hearing impairment, for example, you might need sounds to be louder for you to hear them, or you may not be able to hear them at all.

Disability is the experience of not being able to take part in society because of barriers you face with your impairment. For example, if a video doesn’t have subtitles, and you can’t hear it.
Internal Support

Further information is available by clicking on the following the links:
Academy Access and Disability
Disability Guide

You can also contact our disability advisor for more information about support in the Academy or if you need information in a different format.

What barriers can people with impairments face?

As highlighted by Inclusion London:
"Barriers 'disable' by creating exclusion, discrimination and disadvantage for people with impairments."
Types of barriers
Physical: is about the use, function and accessibility of infrastructure, buildings, services, facilities including toilets, lifts, ramps, curbs and public spaces.

Attitudinal: relates to the attitudes, social norms, stereotypes, explanations, assumptions, biasses, reactions and behaviours expressed by individuals, groups, organisations, institutions and societies towards people with impairments. This encompasses a range of behaviours from assumptions about capability or need for protection, independents as well as prejudice or discrimination.

Communication: is about accessibility of information through formats and the language used, provisions for facilitating communication such as British Sign Language interpreters or hearing loops, and understanding what people with impairments need in order to access certain information. It also includes the language used to describe people with impairments that are rooted in cultural assumptions.
The aim of this article is to provide a snapshot of information to aid understanding of neurodivergence and impairment. 

We've included links to both internal and external support services if you want to find out more.

In this article we will look at:
  • Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia
  • Visual and hearing impairments


What is neurodivergence?

Neurodivergence is an umbrella term to describe cognitive functioning which is not considered "typical" (Exceptional Individuals). Neurodiversity includes a spectrum of neurodiverse conditions including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.

Find out more information by watching What is Neurodiversity? from the British Dyslexia Association and What is Neurodiversity? created by Skill Boosters (YouTube). 


The National Autistic Society explains:
"Autism is a spectrum condition and affects people in different ways. Like all people, autistic people have their own strengths and weaknesses."
You can learn more by watching the following videos from the National Autistic Society (YouTube) where you can also access stories by people living with autism:

What is Autism?
Amazing Things Happen - by Alexander Amelines

Some of the difficulties that autistic people may share are:

Social communication challenges
  • interpreting verbal and non-verbal language (gestures or tone of voice)
  • communicating with others
  • understanding sarcasm or tone of voice
  • taking things literally and not understanding abstract concepts
  • needing extra time to process information or answer questions
  • repeating what other say to them (echolalia)
Social interaction challenges
  • 'reading' people, recognising or understanding 'feelings and intentions' and expressing emotions
  • appearing insensitive
  • seeking out time alone
  • not seeking comfort from others
  • appearing to behave 'strangely' or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate
  • finding it hard to form friendships
Repetitive and restrictive behaviour
  • traveling the same way
  • having fixed routines - a change of routine can be distressing and cause anxiety
  • repeating movements and gestures as a calming mechanism
Over- or under-sensitivity
  • to light, sound, smells, taste, touch, temperatures or pain
  • feeling overwhelmed and experiencing sensory overload
Highly focused interests or hobbies
  • developing intense and highly focused interests where they become experts and excel
  • they may become so engrossed in a topic or activity that they neglect other aspects of their lives
Extreme anxiety
  • experiencing extreme anxiety
  • impacting quality of life psychologically and physically
  • understanding triggers and finding coping mechanisms to help reduce anxiety is key
Meltdowns and shutdowns
  • meltdown: becoming completely overwhelmed by their current situation and temporarily lose behavioural control
  • shutdown: a passive but just as debilitating response to being overwhelmed by going quiet or 'switching off'
To find out more visit the National Autistic Society or connect with the West London Branch for local support.


As ADHD UK explains:
"ADHD is a mental health condition that is defined through analysis of behaviour. People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity–impulsivity that interferes with day-to-day functioning and/or development." 
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and can affect children and adults. Diagnosis requires a medical professional but some of the criteria that is considered:
  • inattention: difficulty concentrating and focusing
  • hyperactivity or impulsivity
Adults can also present with symptoms of ADHD and receive a diagnosis later in life. ADHD is considered to be a developmental condition, therefore it is thought that symptoms are likely to appear first during childhood and continue into adulthood.
The NHS explains that some specialists have suggested the following symptoms are associated with ADHD in adults, although it's important to seek expert advice, guidance and diagnosis as there may be other : 
  • carelessness and lack of attention to detail
  • continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
  • poor organisational skills
  • inability to focus or prioritise
  • continually losing or misplacing things
  • forgetfulness
  • restlessness and edginess
  • difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn
  • blurting out responses and often interrupting others
  • mood swings, irritability and a quick temper
  • inability to deal with stress
  • extreme impatience
  • taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others – for example, driving dangerously
To find out more, check out the following videos (YouTube):

What is ADHD (ADHD UK)
Let's talk about ADHD (National Centre for Mental Health)
Looking after yourself (ADHD UK)
What's it like to have ADHD (ADHD Voices)

To find out more visit the ADHD Foundation or call 0151 541 9020
Resource hub


The British Dyslexia Association explains:
"Dyslexia is a neurological difference and can have a significant impact during education, in the workplace and in everyday life. As each person is unique, so is everyone's experience of dyslexia. It can range from mild to severe, and it can co-occur with other learning difficulties. It usually runs in families and is a life-long condition."
Watch See Dyslexia Differently by the British Dyslexia Association for more information (YouTube).

Find out more information about dyslexia in adulthood or an indication about the signs of dyslexia.

Music and dyslexia -
A Pianist's Story by Gill Backhouse

Dyslexia in Higher Education (by The Dyslexia Foundation)
British Dyslexia Association (BDA)
0333 405 4555
The Dyslexia Foundation
Freephone helpline: 0800 077 8763
NHS - Dyslexia


The Dyspraxia Foundation explains:
"Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults."
Dyspraxia affects all areas of life, particularly movement and coordination. Common signs of dyspraxia or DCD include:
  • Movement - coordination of movements, spacial awareness, learning or transferring motor skills to new situation or activities.
  • Organisation and planning - difficulty organising themselves and their thoughts, including attention, memory and time management.
  • Speech and language - difficulty keeping up with conversations, long pauses before responding and clear speech.


The British Dyslexia Association explains:
"Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers which can lead to a diverse range of difficulties with mathematics. It will be unexpected in relation to age, level of education and experience and occurs across all ages and abilities."
Dyscalculia is different from maths anxiety but affect someone's ability with math activities. Symptoms of dyscalculia in adults can include (The Dyslexia Association):
  • difficulty counting backwards
  • difficulty remembering ‘basic’ facts
  • slow to perform calculations
  • weak mental arithmetic skills
  • a poor sense of numbers and estimation
  • difficulty understanding place value
  • addition is often the default operation
  • high levels of mathematics anxiety

Visual impairment and blindness

Visual impairment is a term used to describe sight loss that cannot be corrected using glasses or contact lenses.

Blindness is used to describe total, or near-total sight loss.

Visual impairments can affect people at any age. However, in adults, the leading cause of sight loss in adults is age-related macular degeneration.

For further information see Blindness and visual impairment from Sense.

Signs of visual impairment can include:
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain in the eye(s) with or without discharge
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Double vision
  • Flashes of light in your vision
  • Disturbances in your vision
  • New floating bits in your vision
  • Headaches or migraines
If you or someone you know are concerned about vision don't delay:
  • Book an appointment with your local ophthalmic practitioner, usually based in an optician - check whether they offer discounts available for students as free NHS eye tests are only available in certain circumstances. It's recommended that you have an eye test every two years.
  • The optician may refer you to specialist services.
  • Book an appointment with you GP or 111 if you are experiencing ongoing symptoms that are affecting your quality of life. 
  • If you require urgent sight-threatening Eye Accident and Emergency services call 999 or visit Western Eye Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital (check the websites first before attending).
For more information:
NHS - Visiting an optician
NHS - Blindness and vision loss

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
Tape and Braille services, student support services, benefits rights,
awareness training.

Tel: 020 7388 1266 or 0845 766 9999 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)

RNIB Music Advisory Service (MAS)
Tel: 020 7391 2273
A contact form also available here.
Alternatively, say 'Alexa, call RNIB Helpline'.

Hearing loss or impairment

Hearing loss or impairments affect approximately 11 million people in the UK. There are a range of causes of hearing loss, but they types are usually as follows:
  • Conductive hearing loss - conditions affecting the outer and/or middle ear cause conductive hearing loss which is often treatable and may, therefore, be temporary.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss - disorders of the inner ear or central auditory system cause sensorineural hearing loss which is usually not medically or surgically treatable and is, therefore, generally permanent.
  • Mixed hearing loss - When there is both a conductive and sensorineural loss, this is called a mixed hearing loss.
As Hearing Link continues to explain:
"The onset of a hearing loss can be sudden (within a few days), rapid (within a few months) or slowly progressive (over years rather than months).
Sudden hearing loss is classified as a medical emergency and should always have urgent, hospital treatment.
Hearing can be affected by:
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Tinnitus
  • Ear infection
  • Earwax build-up
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Labyrinthitis or meniere's disease
Exposure to loud noise may damage hearing permanently.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) has an online hearing test where you can check your hearing. You can also explore further information about the signs of hearing loss and how to get you hearing tested.

Read this BAPAM article to find our more about Singers, Musicians and Hearing Loss.
BAPAM Hearing Health
Click for full access to links within the BAPAM infographic.

For more information and advice about protecting your hearing visit:
Tel: 0808 808 0123
Text/SMS: 07360 268 988
Relay: dial 18001 followed by 0808 808 0123
Online chat available here

Hearing Link
British Tinnitus Association
Help Musicians also has guidance and information for musicians including discounted audiological assessments and hearing protection.


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