Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

Ableism and the Social Model of Disability: What Does it Have to do With Behavior Analysts?

Andrew Hall (Pyles and Associates)

Invited Panel






Recipients of behavior analytic services have traditionally been viewed through a medical model lens that treats deficits. Alternatively, a social model of disability views societal barriers and systemic biases as limiting people with disabilities’ ability to thrive and meet their own needs/wants. Some disciplines have increasingly acknowledged this social conceptualization of disability and begun to adopt more equitable language and practices across research and practice. In both research and practice, behavior analysts have generally have not ascribed to a social model of disability, perhaps contributing to ongoing negative perceptions of applied behavior analysis (ABA) in some communities. This panel will begin with a brief overview of terms and concepts relevant to equity in behavior analysis and disability research. Our panel will then discuss these concepts as they relate to ethical research and practice in ABA. Namely, the panel will (1) discuss the importance of considering these concepts as diversity issues in practice, (2) identify indicators of ableism in ABA research and discourse, and (3) consider how subtle ableism may influence behavior analytic interventions. Last, the panel will discuss initial steps behavior analysts may take to challenge their own assumptions and support equity for people with disabilities in our field.


Modifed by Eddie Soh