Disabled History Month 2015

Monday 23-11-2015 - 14:51

We're looking at 3 main themes this year - twenty years of the Disability Discrimination Act, Disabled HERstory and Disabled People Now.

Twenty Years of the Disability Discrimination Act

November 2015 marks twenty years since the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act (which has now been subsumed into the Equality Act 2010).  We’re using history month to reflect on how that battle was won, and what has really changed since. While the Race Relations Act (1976) and the Sex Discrimination Act (1975) assured some minimum standards for equality on grounds of gender and race, there were very few legal protections for disabled people until 1995.  The DDA made it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport.

One of the most radical things about the DDA was that it outlawed both direct and indirect discrimination of disabled people.  This meant that not only was say, a restaurant owner not able to chuck disabled diners our simply because they didn’t like the look of them, but also that the business now had to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure their disabled customers had full access to their services.  This concept of ‘reasonable adjustments’ was a serious breakthrough and has become a cornerstone of disabled people’s rights in the UK and beyond.

The passing of the legislation was achieved through the tireless efforts of disabled people who used lobbying and direct action in a huge public campaign against discrimination.  It’s estimated that over 100,000 people took part in demonstrations to achieve equal access for disabled people.  Images of disabled people who handcuffed themselves to busses being manhandled and arrested by police are now a part of our proud disabled history in the UK.

As always, many argue that the DDA and subsequent Equality Act (2010) don’t go far enough and include too many loopholes or unenforceable regulations – but we think it’s worth celebrating this milestone and the stories of those who fought for it.

You might want to use the story as a hook for history month events about disabled people and citizenship, activism, the power of law, or lots of other themes.  You could use these videos made by the charity Scope about how the DDA was won and what it meant to people at the time.

We’re also gathering information about what has and has not changed in the last twenty years. You could fill in and promote this survey to help us.You could send us photos or stories of good and bad practice around your campus or in your city.  For example, maybe a public building near you has made progress in becoming more accessible, or maybe elements of your teaching and learning at university and college are still inaccessible.  Send your contributions to or @MaddyKirman and we’ll create a gallery.


Disabled HERstory

This year, the NUS Disabled Students’ Campaign will be highlighting the stories of disabled women in history.

We’ve selected thirty women who have created real change, broken down barriers, or excelled in their field.  It’s an intersectional list, reflecting disabled women’s role in activism around the world and in a variety of disciplines. We’ll be using social media to showcase these women’s stories – so watch the hashtag #DisabledHERstory to learn more, and as ever, share share share! Our resource pack includes postcards of three disabled women that you could you at an event about intersectional feminism, or as part of your history month events generally. 


Disabled People Now

This theme of history month is all about the struggle disabled people are engaged with right now, particularly the anti-austerity movement and the fight for accessible education. We’re mobilising for a wave of local actions on December 3rd (the UN International Day of Disabled People) about cuts to DSA and other support services disabled students need.  You can find a full briefing paper on this event online or in our resource pack.

We’re also gearing up for a national action outside the Department for Work and Pensions on December 16th.  This is about building resistance to the Work and Welfare Reform Bill and the devastating impact benefit cuts have had on disabled people.  We want to make this event creative and loud, and we’re forging relationships with other campaigning groups to be as powerful as possible.  There’ll be more information about this coming soon so watch this space!

So these are our ideas, but we know that you’ll have plenty of your own.  Please do get in touch to let us know what you’re working on and what themes you’re talking about during Disabled History Month 2015.




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