First UK Disability History Month

By Jonathan Bartley
November 11, 2010

The first UK Disability History Month (DHM) will kick off in a couple of weeks time. It begins on 22nd November and aims to raise the profile of disabled people’s rights and struggle for equality, now and in the past. It sounds as if there will, like Black History Month, be quite a focus on schools and education in general.

The website sets out how Disability History Month (DHM) will focus on:

• Celebrating the struggles and achievements of disabled people.
• Looking at the history of discrimination, negative attitudes, and oppression (disablism).
• Enabling pupils, students and staff to challenge this - 80 per cent of disabled pupils report being bullied.
• Creating an understanding of the barriers faced by disabled people in schools, colleges, the workplace and society.
• Campaigning to change attitudes and practices to make rights a daily reality.
• Understanding that disabled people often also struggle against sexism, racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination.

Schools and colleges are being urged to introduce disability equality across the curriculum, hold assemblies and organise events and displays. It is also hoped that workplaces will raise issues of disability equality with their staff and customers. (Hate crime, poverty and discrimination are a daily experience amongst the UK’s 12 million disabled people).

The most important thing about the month however, is that it is based firmly on the ‘Social model’ (rather than a medical model) of disability. (For a quick summary of the differences and the implications see here but the long and short of it is that the medical model tends to lead to segregation whilst the social model leads to inclusion). This recognises that it is the barriers of the environment, organisation and attitude that disadvantage disabled people.

The history of the attitudes and stereotypes which stem from the medical model will therefore be explored, as well as new inclusive practices based on disability equality.

Richard Rieser, coordinator of UK Disability History Month puts its like this: "DHM presents a great opportunity to recognise and right historic wrongs. The law requires non-discrimination, reasonable adjustments to be implemented, with no harassment. DHM is about rights, not charity. It is about solidarity in our struggle for equality, not feeling sorry for disabled people. Independence means having control over what happens to us, not having to do everything for ourselves. Giving all disabled children and adults a powerful ‘voice’ is crucial".

More info at the Disability History Month website

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