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The impairment/disability distinction: a response to Shakespeare
  1. S D Edwards
  1. S D Edwards, Centre for Philosophy, Humanities & Law in Healthcare, 7th Floor, Vivian Tower, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK; s.d.edwards{at}


Tom Shakespeare’s important new book includes, among other topics, a persuasive critique of the social model of disability. A key component in his case against that model consists in an argument against the impairment/disability distinction as this is understood within the social model. The present paper focuses on the case Shakespeare makes against that distinction. Three arguments mounted by Shakespeare are summarised and responded to. It is argued that the responses adequately rebut Shakespeare’s case on this specific issue. Moreover, as the engagement with Shakespeare’s argument illustrates, his claim to employ a critical realist perspective appears to be in considerable tension with the case he offers against the impairment/disability distinction.

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  • Competing interests: None.