A woman with a disability smiling at the camera

Language matters, considerations for ableism in Generative AI (social model vs medical model of disability)

Language matters, especially when it comes to ableism and gen AI / large language models.

If you are making products using gen AI (copilots, bots, whatever is it), it's a best practice to make sure your models focus on the social model of disability vs the medical one.

Why? Let's imagine the following interaction with a HR bot: I prompt "I am dyslexic, what are some accommodations I can request in the workplace in the UK" for the bot to reply with "I am so sorry to learn that, it must be hard for you to type if you are Dyslexic".

Ouch, yuck NO. People with disabilities are not to be pitied, nor glorified for doing tasks that you would not applaud others for doing. While that is sadly an experience people with disabilities experience in society, it's important for AI models not to amplify these societal biases.

Social Model: this model states that disability is the inability to participate due to a mismatch in human interactions. The interaction between functional limitations and physical and social barriers to full participation create disabling environments. The solution, according to this model, lies not in fixing the person, but in changing our society.

Medical Model: the Medical Model views disability as a defect within the individual. Disability is an aberration compared to normal traits and characteristics. In order to have a high quality of life, these defects must be cured, fixed, or completely eliminated. Health care and social service professionals have the sole power to correct or modify these conditions. 

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