Support Face Equality Day 23rd May

May 18, 2018 by richard

Published on May 1, 2018

This year we are launching a new appeal to support a year of transformational change and actions specifically for children and young people with visible differences across the UK: Proud to be Me -The Future of Face Equality. Our year of action begins on Face Equality Day on May 23rd 2018 – the very first specifically for young people. It is the UK’s only campaign to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equally whatever the appearance of their face or body. The campaign will be led by young people, for young people – with champions such as vlogger and baking ace Nikki Lilly and our Youth Action Group.
We are now less than a week away from Face Equality Day 2018. We have some very exciting activities lined up for the day including the launch of ground breaking research on the attitudes of young people.
We are delighted that this year’s Face Equality Day will launch a year of campaigning and actions specifically for children and young people with visible differences across the UK. 
Helping us to deliver the campaign is a group of very active and passionate young people who are shaping our resources, reviewing research and preparing to speak to the media. A member of the Youth Action Group is Vlogger and baking ace Nikki Lilly. You can hear from Nikki below about what #Proudtobeme means to her.
The new research and report we will be launching shines a light on the issues that young people face when it comes to appearance and provides recommendations to help create a future where everyone with a visible difference can lead the lives they want. The report, ‘Looking Different’,  includes a CHILDWISE survey with over 1,500 children and young people across the UK (aged 7-17 years), combined with in-depth interviews with those who have a visible difference. If you would like a paper copy of the report after next Wednesday please do contact me via
How you can get involved:
  • Tell us what #FaceEquality means to you by using our selfie sheet. You can then share on social media using #Proudtobeme (We will RT you) 
With less than a week to go and excitement building we have made sure there’s something that everyone can do for Face Equality Day.
Kind Regards, 
Rob Murray
Project Manager for Face Equality 2018
Mob: 0770 373 2233
Twitter: @robmurray11

Karen Gafney TED Talk Down Syndrome Inclusion and Human Rights 14.27

May 7, 2018 by richard

For morwe information on Karen’s life see

Tom Shakespeare BBC Radio 4 Point of View BBC I player

April 30, 2018 by richard  A Normal Need 10 minutes  The Mental Illness Metaphor  Going Forward  Dementia Rights  The Power of Stories  Sic Transport- Why we should not wallow in the past  Independence Wheelchair User Tom Shakespeare on being dependent on others

Disabled Century BBC Produced and Directed by David Hevey

September 30, 2017 by richard

Can be viewed on line at

Episode 1

The Disabled CenturyEpisode 1 of 3

A look at the experiences of those disabled while fighting for their country in the two world wars, and the harsh, often brutal realities that confronted the vast majority of disabled people in the early years of the century. It covers World War I heroes reduced to begging in the streets; Horace Blackburn’s struggle to get work; Bill Surrey, in institutions for 77 years; Gladys Brooks, strapped to a steel frame for two and a half years; Snowy Harding, whose family could not afford a wheelchair; fighter ace Douglas Bader, who lost both legs; and the Guinea Pig Club.

Episode 2

The Disabled CenturyEpisode 2 of 3

A look at whether the creation of the welfare state made life better for Britain’s disabled community, and at the rights that disabled groups, including the blind and those affected by thalidomide, began to demand.

100 years of solitude The Guardian

When Les Price wanted to transcribe Ulysses into braille in the 1960s, the prim volunteers at the National Library for the Blind were mortified. That wasn’t the sort of enlightenment they had in mind. Peter Lennon reviews a century of patronising attitudes towards disabled people

Snowy Harding’s life is a weird illustration of Bishop Berkeley’s dictum: “I am because I am perceived”. Or, in his case: “I am what I am perceived to be.” As a child in the 1930s, Snowy would race down 53 steps in the council flats where he lived in West Ham, east London, and rush off the mile and a half to the pictures with the other kids. Then, perceived by his pals as normal, he would play cowboys and indians on the street with them.

The kids just accepted that Snowy did everything crawling. He has suffered all his life from muscular dystrophy, and his mother could not afford a wheelchair. “I didn’t know I was disabled,” Snowy says, “until during the war, when I was 14 and the other kids were evacuated to families in the country. I was sent to an institution.”

How disabled and disfigured people have been perceived over this century is the subject of a new three-part BBC2 series, The Disabled Century, starting tomorrow.

The century opened with disabled people hidden away or tolerated in small communities. It was assumed that they had nothing of any significance to contribute to society.

The first world war changed that somewhat; a place was found for many performing menial tasks in the munitions factories, doing their bit to add a few more disabled to the world.

When the soldiers returned from the second world war, society realised it owed a debt to those disabled in that conflict. At least in the early stages, disfigured soldiers were taken care of, living together in communities of their own. Morale was fairly good since they were “able to face the stares together”.

The 1960s brought a new scourge: thalidomide. Mat Fraser tells how compensation cases were assessed. His mother brought him into a room where there were some strange gentlemen. One of them said: “There are sweets in the top drawer of that filing cabinet.” With only stumps for arms, Mat managed to find the sweeties in the drawer. “£15,000 compensation,” the man said.

Mat Fraser was one of the rare victims of thalidomide who was able to go on to public school. On his first day as a prefect there was a ritual where all the fags were lined up and he had to slap one. He kicked him in the face instead; Mat was more accustomed to using his bare feet than his shrivelled arms. Later, his father gave him boxing gloves and he became a handy kick boxer.

Old attitudes towards disfigurement still clung obstinately to those entrusted with the care of young thalidomide victims. They did not like the idea of those shrublike arms and insisted on prosthetic aids when the children were eating. When it became clear that they were infinitely more skilful handling their food without artificial limbs, a compromise was reached in some homes: there was a rule that decency must be observed on Saturdays and special occasions, so the children were harnessed up at weekends.

For all the liberating ethos of the 1960s, the old patronising attitudes to disabled people persisted; they were still treated as children, expected to be pleased with simple things. Their own courage in living with their disability was often put down to a matter of Christian faith. They were rarely offered opportunities to control their own lives.

It was in the turbulent 1970s – the winter of discontent, Edward Heath and his three-day week – that individual protest began to be heard; but there was still no effective organisation to speak for people with disabilities.

After a youth of dependent living spent in institutions, with few possessions and no experience of organising their own lives, thalidomide children were dumped on the community at the age of 18. Care in the Community was the slogan later, but where were the resources to fund it? It had one useful effect: for good or evil, disabled people lost their isolation and became a very visible element in society.

In the 1980s, there was a hurried attempt to hide them away again. In contrast to the second world war – when, at least for a time, the war wounded were honoured – the triumphalism of the Falklands war did not chime with blasted faces and severed limbs. So when it came to the Falklands victory pagentry, the disabled servicemen tended to be hidden behind the arras.

In the late 1980s, there were serious moves to achieve civil rights for the disabled. It looked as if they might be getting somewhere with the proposals for a disability discrimination act. But when the act was passed in 1995, disabled people once again felt cheated: there were no adequate provisions for imposing sanctions on offenders. “They could just laugh at our legal threats,” disabled groups complained.

The 1990s brought the issue of direct action for access to the forefront, and Londoners at least began to experience a new kind of traffic problem when disabled members of the Direct Action Network began to chain themselves to buses.

When director David Hevey began research for The Disabled Century it was hard to find archive material. “In the old days people did not film disabilities specifically,” he says. “It was not seen as worthy of being filmed, except in a circus. Before the second world war it was not really seen as a photograph issue.”

When he did get archive footage, instead of resorting to the conventional device of cutting back and forth from past to present, he hit on an ingenious device to underline the fact that for these people their tormented past was actively part of their present: he projected images of their past on to their breasts, their faces, pulsating on their skin. “That way,” Hevey says, “their past is a physical sign, almost a stigma on their body. We explained why we were doing it, and they were happy with it. It showed that their history is still active in them, a living issue.”

But they were not all stories of frustration and deprivation. For Les Price, a blind piano tuner, the future seemed forbidding when, in his forties, television sets began to replace the upright piano in the parlour. But he got a job in the National Library for the Blind, and one of his duties was to arrange for the transcription of books into braille. When in 1962 he was made head librarian, he saw a chance to achieve a great ambition: to have James Joyce’s Ulysses transcribed into braille.

“It was my proudest moment,” Les says. “Except, of course, Manchester United winning everything”.

However, initially there was a problem. The National Library for the Blind was founded in 1882 by a group of elderly women whose motive was to give enlighten- ment – mostly of the religious variety – to the blind. “Many of the transcribers were prim ladies, mostly retired school teachers,” Les says. “By 1962, it had moved somewhat, but there was a rearguard action that we shouldn’t give anything to the blind that was ‘dirty’. It was not the staff who objected, but the whole [transcribing] procedure was based on volunteers. I should say that they were very dedicated people, but Lady Chatterley they would not have touched.”

Molly Bloom’s soliloquy was out of the question. In the end, Les Price found an ideal solution: “The transcription was done by a Jewish lady, a member of the staff at the library.”

Despite their determination and ingenuity, the disabled people are still a long way from winning a just place in society.Two out of three disabled people live in poverty or close to it; fewer than one in 10 secondary schools have wheelchair access; six out of 10 disabled people capable of working are not in work.

BBC/The Disabled Century, Broadcast 3 x 40’ film series. BBC2/BBC4/BFI 3×40’. Director/producer David Hevey
Mind Mental Health Media Awards nominee.
“Brilliant…a really good example of the bigger and better philosophy.” BBC2 Channel Controller.
“Visually striking” Paul Hoggart, The Times.
“Beauty and eloquence perpetually forced the viewer to look and hear in fresh ways”. Robert Hanks, The Independent.

“Exemplary..Magnificent..I hope to see it leading the Bafta nominations”, Gerard O’Donovan, The Telegraph.
“First rate”, Jack Dee, The Guardian’s My Media column.
“On any level, the best programme on television this week”. The Independent.
“Extraordinary” Daily Mail.
“Social history at its finest” Polly Toynbee, The Guardian.

Tracey Lazard on UN CRPD Committee calling UK Government’s Treatment of Disabled People a Catastrophe

September 29, 2017 by richard


IL in Geneva

We gave evidence to the UN in August alongside our sister DDPOs

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations were hailed as “world leaders” by the UN for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on Disabled people in the UK.The UN Disability Committee condemned the UK government, saying that austerity policies have caused a ‘human catastrophe’ for Deaf and Disabled people in the UK.

DDPOs and the thousands of Deaf and Disabled people we work with can feel very proud at the contribution we made. Catch up here:

40 Facts about Tamerlane – Timur the Lame

September 17, 2017 by richard

40 Facts about Tamerlane – Timur the Lame

Updated on April 19, 2015
A reconstruction of Tamerlane's face.
A reconstruction of Tamerlane’s face. | Source

Who Was Tamerlane?

Timur was a 14th Century Turko-Mongol military leader who conquered most of the Muslim world, central Asia, and parts of India. His Timurid Empire rivaled the size and power of the Mongolian domain forged by Genghis Khan a century earlier.

Known by his nickname, Tamerlane, it’s unclear why many people in the Western world have never heard of this brutal and ingenious warlord. To rectify this neglect, the following is a list of interesting facts about Tamerlane. The list includes notable events in his life; analyzes his acerbic personality, and remarks on current impressions of this fascinating historical figure.

A statue of Tamerlane in Uzbekistan.
A statue of Tamerlane in Uzbekistan. | Source

40 Interesting Facts about Timur the Lame

1. Timur (meaning `iron’) was born in 1336 near the city of Kesh in Transoxiania. This historic Persian city is now known as Shahrisabz in modern day Uzbekistan.

2. Tamerlane is the European derivation of Timur’s Persian nickname, Timur-e Lang, which means `Timur the Lame’.

3. During his mid-twenties, Tamerlane was crippled by injuries to his right leg and right hand. Legend states that he was shot by arrows when his band of thieves was ambushed by a shepherd. It’s more likely that the injuries were sustained in battle when he was a soldier for the Khan of Sistan (in north-east Iran).

4. In 1941, Russian archaeologists excavated Tamerlane’s tomb, confirming that he had a debilitating hip injury and two fingers missing from his right hand.

5. The excavation revealed that he was tall for the time (1.73 m) and broad-chested. He had prominent cheek bones and Mongoloid features (see reconstruction).

6. Timur’s tomb was allegedly inscribed with the words “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble”.

7. His coffin supposedly read: “Whoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I”. Hitler invaded the USSR within two days of the exhumation, and when Timur was finally reburied, the Soviet victory at Stalingrad shortly followed.

Tamerlane's tomb in Samarkand.
Tamerlane’s tomb in Samarkand. | Source

8. Tamerlane’s ambition was to rebuild the empire of Genghis Khan, who had died a century earlier.

9. His military conquests saw him conquer land that comprises the modern day countries of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, large parts of Turkey and Syria, and the north-western portion of India (Delhi).

10. It is estimated that his armies killed 17 million people, which was about 5% of the global population at the time.

11. He referred to himself as the `Sword of Islam’ and converted much of his empire to the religion. This included Genghis Khan’s descendents, the Borjigin clan.

12. Tamerlane’s own religious affiliation is unclear, and he may have been using Islam as a means to consolidate and exert power. Indeed, he was a highly intelligent politician who spoke Turkish, Mongolian and Persian.

The breadth of the Timurid Empire.
The breadth of the Timurid Empire. | Source

13. Tamerlane’s father was a prominent member of the Barlas tribe, which had been close with Genghis Khan’s Borjigin clan. However, the Barlas tribe had been converted to Islam and spoke Turkish.

14. Despite this, Tamerlane idolized Genghis Khan and used similar methods to build his empire. For example, he was a military mastermind who led a multi-ethnic army. He instilled great loyalty, and was adept at taking advantage of temporary weaknesses in the political state of his enemies. He also used spies and propaganda to sow the seeds for invasion, and planned his campaigns years in advance.

15. Tamerlane was a natural leader. He spent his teenage years leading a band of petty thieves. They stole livestock from farmers, and property from travelers and merchants.

16. In his twenties, Tamerlane fought under the rule of various Khans and Sultans. His leadership skills led to him being given command of a thousand soldiers for an invasion of Khorasan (in north-east Iran). The success of this mission led to further commands and prestige.

17. When his leader, Kurgan, died, the subsequent struggle for power was eventually halted by the invasion of Tughlugh Khan from the Mongol Chagatai Khanate. The head of the Barlas tribe fled the invasion, and Timur was chosen by the Mongols as his replacement.

18. When Tughlugh Khan died and entrusted Transoxiania to his son Ilyas, Timur and his brother-in-law, Amir Husayn, sensed their opportunity and took the region by force.

Timur is made king in northern Afghanistan.
Timur is made king in northern Afghanistan. | Source

19. Now in his mid-thirties, Timur was a tribal leader with a territory to defend. He used his power wisely, showing kindness and charity to nobles, merchants, and the clergy. This gained him many allies, and much power.

20. Amir Husayn treated his subjects harshly and became jealous of Timur’s growing power. They quickly became rivals, forcing Timur to capture Amir. He was later assassinated, giving Timur complete control in northern Iran and Afghanistan.

21. Tamerlane dominated over the Chagatai chieftains to the north-east, and eventually claimed the Mongol territory by marrying, Saray Mulk Khanum, a Chagatai princess and descendant of Genghis Khan.

22. Tamerlane was unable to become the Mongol emperor because he was not a descendent of Genghis Khan. Likewise, he couldn’t claim legitimacy in the Muslim world because he wasn’t a descendent of Muhammad. Instead he ruled the Chagatai Khanate via a puppet ruler, and attributed his military successes in Persia to the will of Allah.

23. Timur led his armies in all directions over the next three decades. In the south and west, Persia was completely conquered. To the north-west, Georgia and Azerbaijan were taken. To the north, the Mongol “Golden Horde” was decisively defeated, though he avoided threatening the Mongol homeland to the north-east.

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi.
Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi. | Source

24. In 1398, and at the age of 62, Timur was now a legendary conqueror with a vast territory. He turned his army towards India in the south-east. Unlike his other conquests, Timur slaughtered the Pakistani and Indian people, justifying the barbarism as a holy war against the Hindu religion.

25. The Sultan of Delhi used war elephants, covered with chain mail, to terrify Timur’s troops. In a stroke of cruel genius, Timur placed hay on the backs of camels, set the hay on fire, and prodded them until they painfully charged at the elephants. The elephants turned and stampeded their own troops, granting Timur an easy victory. The population of Delhi were massacred.

26. Much like Genghis Khan, Tamerlane was opportunistic. His campaigns of Persia and Delhi took advantage of power struggles that had weakened their defenses.

27. Timur’s cruelty grew in his later years. Legend states that his invasion of Baghdad (Iraq) in 1399 required each of his soldiers to show him two severed heads from the largely Christian population.

Tamerlane imprisoned and humiliated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid.
Tamerlane imprisoned and humiliated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid. | Source

28. In revenge for insulting letters sent by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid (Turkey), Timur conquered the Ottoman Empire in 1402, and Bayezid died in captivity.

29. His victory began a civil war in Turkey in which Timur’s candidate, Mehmed I, secured power. Mehmed belonged to a tribe that the Mongols had previously allowed to rule the region.

30. Tamerlane had friendly relations with some European states, namely France and Spain. Both he and the Europeans saw themselves as reluctant allies against the Ottomans.

31. Right up until his death, Timur continued to expand his empire. The leader of the new Chinese Ming Dynasty had insulted Timur, provoking his wrath. However, after 3 months of successful battles, the campaign ended when Timur succumbed to fever and died.

32. Despite preferring spring assaults, Timur had prematurely attacked the Chinese during the harsh winter of 1404. This suggests that his anger at the Chinese contributed to his demise.

33. Timur Tamerlane died on the 17th of February 1405 at the age of 68. His body was embalmed and buried in an ebony coffin in Samarkand, fifty miles north of his birthplace in Kesh.

34. Timur had 4 sons. The eldest two, Jahangir and Umar Shaykh, died before him, while Miran Shah died soon after. Timur was succeeded by his youngest son, Shah Rukh.

35. The Black Sheep Turkmen destroyed the western half of his empire when they sacked Baghdad in 1410, though Shah Rukh continued the Timurid dynasty by retaining control of the eastern half. He set up his capital in Herat, Afghanistan.

Some beautiful Timurid architecture.
Some beautiful Timurid architecture. | Source

36. Tamerlane’s descendents include Babur, founder of the Indian Mughal Empire, and the scientifically adept Timurid ruler, Ulugh Beg.

37. The Timurid Empire lasted until 1507. The Persian Safavid dynasty took most of Iran in 1501, while a contingent of Uzbek tribes invaded from the north to take Herat in 1507.

38. Like many other formidable leaders, Tamerlane’s legacy is unclear. He is regarded as a hero in central Asian states such as Uzbekistan.

39. In much of Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and India, he is vilified as a monster for massacring the populations. Nevertheless, some Muslim scholars applaud him for uniting the Muslim world.

40. Despite forcing Christians out of much of the Muslim world, he was highly regarded in Europe for defeating the Ottomans, though that impression has become less favorable in recent times.

A Short Lecture About The Timurids

It’s unclear why Tamerlane and the Timurid Empire are under-represented in popular historical discourse. Perhaps it’s because his achievements were very similar, but slightly less notable, than those of Genghis Khan. Why speak of the second greatest Asian ruler when you can speak of the first?

It’s possible that his empire was too short-lived to be given much attention (137 years). After all, the Persian, Ottoman, Mongol, and Mughal Empires survived far longer. Perhaps, his cruelty discouraged the civilizations who could have popularized his story; or maybe his lameness caused fewer writers to glorify his achievements. While others have succeeded in immortalizing themselves with barbarism, we may never know why Tamerlane escaped a similar degree of notoriety.

Was Tamerlane disabled?

by richard

Disability history month: Was Tamerlane disabled?

    • 4 December 2012

Tamerlane – derived from his nickname Timur the Lame – rose from obscurity to become a 14th Century conqueror of nations, who piled high the skulls of his enemies. It was quite a feat at a time when physical prowess was prized, writes Justin Marozzi.

Think of the greatest conquerors of all time and chances are you’ll quickly list Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. It is rather less likely, unless you come from Central Asia or the Muslim world more widely, that you’d spare a thought for Tamerlane.

Yet in many ways this Tartar warlord, born near Samarkand in 1336 in what is now Uzbekistan, outshone both the Macedonian king and the Mongol warlord.

Unlike Alexander, Tamerlane was not of royal blood, but came from humble stock.

He began his world-conquering rampages as a petty sheep-rustler among the steppes and high mountain passes of Central Asia.

And unlike Genghis, he did not have one people to lead to military triumphs, but had to weld together a successful army from a bewildering mass of different, often fractious, nationalities. By the time he faced the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid I on the battlefield in 1402, his soldiers came from the length and breadth of his empire, from Armenia to Afghanistan, Samarkand to Siberia.

Overcoming these disadvantages was one thing. More striking and startling by far was the fact that Tamerlane was severely disabled in his right side.

At birth he was given the name Timur, meaning iron, which later gave rise to the pejorative Persian version, Timur-i-lang (Timur the lame), after a devastating injury he suffered to both right limbs in his youth. From there it was only a slight corruption to Tamburlaine and Tamerlane, the names by which he is better known in the West.

Such a physical disability, at a time when martial skills were a prerequisite of political power, would have been a crushing blow for most men.

The young Tamerlane would have known the local proverb “only a hand that can grasp a sword may hold a sceptre”. Self-advancement in this brutal world was inconceivable without excelling in hand-to-hand combat and mounted archery.

The sources leave us in no doubt about the injury, although there is uncertainty over exactly how it occurred. It probably happened in about 1363, when Tamerlane was serving as a mercenary for the Khan of Sistan in Khorasan, in what is today the Dasht-i-Margo (“desert of death”) in south-west Afghanistan.

Another source – the extremely hostile Ibn Arabshah, a Syrian chronicler from the 15th Century – says a watchful shepherd spied Tamerlane prowling about his flock of sheep, smashed his shoulder with one well-directed arrow and loosed off another into his hip for good measure.

“Mutilation was added to his poverty and a blemish to his wickedness and fury,” writes the Syrian with a contemptuous flourish.

Clavijo, the Spanish ambassador who visited Samarkand in 1404, records how Tamerlane encountered a large party of horsemen from Sistan, who slaughtered many of his men.

“Him too they knocked off his horse, wounding him in the right leg, of which wound he has remained lame all his life (whence his name of Timur the Lame); further he received a wound in his right hand, so that he has lost the little finger and the next finger to it.”

A Soviet archaeological team led by Mikhail Gerasimov opened Timur’s exquisite tomb in Samarkand in 1941 and found that he was a “lame”, well-built man of about 5ft 7in.

An injury to his right leg, where the thighbone had merged with his kneecap, left it shorter than the left, hence the pronounced limp referred to in his scornful nickname.

When walking, he would have dragged his right leg, and his left shoulder was found to be unnaturally higher than the right. Further wounds were discovered to his right hand and elbow.

Image captionThe Gur Emir Mausoleum in Samarkand holds Tamerlane’s tomb

For his 14th Century enemies, such as the Ottoman emperor and the rulers of Baghdad and Damascus, Tamerlane’s lameness provided an easy opportunity to sneer – but mockery was easier than beating him in battle.

Even Arabshah, his fiercest critic, acknowledged that he was “mighty in strength and courage”, a “spirited and brave” leader who “inspired awe and obedience”.

One can sense the great 18th Century historian Edward Gibbon almost warming to Tamerlane, whose ferocious military genius has never really received its historical due:

“The nations which he vanquished exercised a base and impotent revenge; and ignorance has long repeated the tale of calumny, which had disfigured the birth and character, the person, and even the name, of Tamerlane.

“Yet his real merit would be enhanced, rather than debased, by the elevation of a peasant to the throne of Asia; nor can his lameness be a theme of reproach, unless he had the weakness to blush at a natural, or perhaps an honourable, infirmity.”

By the time he died, en route to war with the Ming emperor of China in 1405, Tamerlane was undefeated on the battlefield after 35 years of constant campaigning.

Rarely can any man, let alone an aspiring world conqueror, have overcome physical disability with such terrifying ease, as hundreds of thousands of Asians, brutally slaughtered and decapitated, discovered to their cost.

Justin Marozzi is the author of Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World

People are Just People-History of Learning Difficulty

June 26, 2017 by richard

People are just people. But we put some of them into groups, draw a line around the group and stick a label on. Then we forget what we did. Instead, we say: Look at that group of people, they are naturally different from everyone else. But they aren’t naturally different. We made it all up.

In the long run, this system is temporary. The focus of its obsessions constantly changes over time. Things were completely different in the past. And that means they can be different – and better – in the future. History is important because it allows us to remember what we, and our ancestors, did. For many centuries, drawing lines round groups of human beings has been an obsession. When we draw these lines around groups of people, we often say they have a mental disorder.

But it can be argued that it is those who draw the lines who have the mental disorder – in their case an extreme phobia about people who they see as different from them. However, it is also considered quite normal to draw these lines. After all, the whole world does it. Psychologists, doctors encourage us to take today’s labels for granted.

Over time, a whole variety of people has been made inferior to others. On top of this, in every age, there has always been an obsessive phobia about one particular group – a group seen as so extreme that it has to be eliminated, or prevented from coming into being in the first place.

This group changes with every historical age, but every age creates one. It was the last two or three centuries that created the group known today as ‘people with learning disabilities’.

Someone with a learning disability today, if they had been born a thousand years ago, would have lived all their life in their home neighbourhood and, like most people, would not have had to do complicated things. So they didn’t have a label. Then, the word ‘idiot’ meant anyone who wasn’t a member of the social or religious elite.

So you could say that once upon a time people with learning disabilities didn’t actually exist. The target of extreme phobia was a different group ‘Heretics’ in the Middle Ages, for example, got burnt. Any particular ‘extreme’ target only exists for a limited period of history. Then the obsession moves on to create a new group.

In the long run, this system is temporary. The focus of its obsessions constantly changes over time. Things were completely different in the past. And that means they can be different – and better – in the future.

Produced in partnership with Face Front Inclusive Theatre & Stratford Circus Arts Centre. Supported by Arts Council England For further information email: –

Ellen and Chris Goodey. Visual Pen Mendoca

A manifesto for Disability Equality The Trades Union Congress 2017 (TUC)

June 15, 2017 by richard

 A manifesto for Disability Equality The Trades Union Congress (TUC) on the advice of its disabled members has published this manifesto to promote support for the steps needed to achieve equality for millions of disabled people in Britain and elsewhere who face discrimination, poverty and prejudice. We call on politicians, organisations and individuals to add their names in support of these proposals. We call for:

1. Support for the Social Model of Disability People with impairments are disabled by the barriers (physical, social and attitudinal) placed in their way. Disabled people themselves must decide their future. The Social Model is the basis for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which the UK has ratified.

2. Recognition of the true position of disabled people in Britain today: Despite legal protection against discrimination provided by the Equality Act 2010 (EA):

 Millions of disabled people live in poverty.

 Support for the right to live independently in the community has been cut.

 Prejudice against disabled people has increased because of government and media propaganda about benefits and hate crime against disabled people remains unacceptably high.

 Ignorance and stigma associated with invisible conditions including mental health issues and neurodiversity prevent many people from obtaining or retaining work.

 Disabled people continue to face barriers to public transport, including insufficient numbers of staff to help and lack of step-free access at most railway stations.

 Employment Tribunal fees and cuts to Legal Aid have reduced access to justice.

 Changes in education law have reduced provision for disabled students.

 Disabled people are seriously underrepresented in public life and are at best stereotyped in the media. In employment,

 Progress in reducing the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people has been slowed by continuing discrimination by employers.

 Supported Employment has been slashed without compensating gains elsewhere.

 Grants from the successful Access to Work programme have been capped with negative consequences for groups of disabled workers.

3. Action is needed to promote disability equality. In regard to legislation, we call for

 The reinforcement, and effective enforcement, of the Public Sector Equality Duty (EA), and its extension to all employers and service providers including third party providers.

 Proper interpretation of the duty in the EA to make reasonable adjustments.

 A British Sign Language Act to give legal recognition to BSL.

 Improve legal recognition of disability hate crime and training rooted in the social model for the judiciary and police.

 All laws impacting on disabled people (including the EA) to be reviewed and amended to make them compliant with the obligations under the UNCRPD.

Measures to ensure support for disabled people and carers:

 Properly funded support for independent living.

 Effective employment rights and decent pay and working conditions for carers;

 The National Health Service trained, funded and resourced to support disabled people and carers;

 Current assessment systems determining access to benefits replaced with a single assessment process designed jointly with disabled people.

Greater support for disabled people at work and into work. Specifically:

 Ending caps on Access to Work grants and significant increases in budget combined with a programme to inform both employers and disabled people of its availability.

 Sustained support for other employment programmes proven to have been effective such as Work Choice. Support for disabled workers and students in education.

 Meeting the needs of all disabled students within an inclusive education system.

 Reinstatement of a Disabled Students Allowance.

 Meeting the needs of disabled workers within education. Support for disabled people to participate in public life by removing barriers and encouraging their engagement.

 Measures to enable disabled people to play a full part in all areas of public life including the introduction of the option of job sharing for elected representatives. Support for greater participation and accurate portrayal of disabled people in the media, culture and the arts, and sport at all levels.

 Government to work with media, arts, culture and sports organisations and with disabled people themselves to establish and monitor standards for the portrayal and representation of disability and disabled people. Establishment and promotion of a national training standard based on the social model of disability for employers and service providers.

 Training based on the social model is essential if government, employers and service providers are to eliminate discrimination from their practice and achieve equality and inclusion for disabled people.

 Therefore, a national disability training standard, established and monitored through engagement with disabled people, must be established, applied, and monitored.

Engagement with disabled people to promote equality internationally

 Support for the policies for inclusion and equality adopted by the European Disability Forum and support for disability equality across Europe and beyond.

For further information or to register your support for the TUC’s Manifesto for Disability Equality please email

The Reunion: Disability Campaigners – full programme transcript (10 April 2016)

April 10, 2016 by richard

The Reunion: Disability Campaigners – full programme transcript (10 April 2016)
The speakers in this programme are as follows:

SM: Sue MacGregor
JC: Jane Campbell
BM: Bert Massie
PW: Peter White
AT: Adam Thomas
WH: William Hague
F: Unidentified female speaker
M: Unidentified male speaker

SM: 50 years ago, back in the 1960s, life for disabled people in Britain was pretty grim. There was very little state provision. The late Jack Ashley, the campaigning Labour politician, and himself deaf, described his generation’s general attitude to disabled people as, “Casual indifference, slightly tinged with pity, bordering on neglect.” Some disabled people were hidden away in institutions or trapped in their homes. A good education was hard to find. Even in the late 1980s, in a decade when schools were mandated to educated disabled students in mainstream schools, a top scholar was refused a place at a grammar school as it wasn’t wheelchair accessible. Disabled people had difficulty getting onto buses and trains. Some could expect to be turned away from cafes and restaurants for ‘putting off’ the other customers. But in the 1970s and 80s, disabled campaigners for better treatment began to adopt the social model, as it was called, which said that it was society, built and run by non-disabled people, which had prevented them from actively participating in a fuller working and social life. Spurning charity and pity, they began to demand rights backed up by legislation. After more than a decade of vocal campaigning, a new law was passed in 1995. For some, the Disability Discrimination Act lacked bite. For others, it did more to improve the lives of disabled people than anything else in the last century. For the first time in Britain, it was unlawful to discriminate against disabled people as employees, customers and citizens.

CA: “It is of course quite natural for many employers to try to get back to a labour force composed just as it was before the war. But there are not enough of the younger men to go around.”

SM: In the first half of the 20th century, casualties of two world wars made disabled people more visible in British society, and potentially more useful. Prime Minister Clement Attlee:

CA: “…most effective service during the war.”

SM: Firms were encouraged to employ disabled veterans.

CA: “…to organise their work, so as to make use of these.”

SM: But many disabled people remained segregated from society. Maggie Davis, a nurse, was left in a long stay hospital after a spinal injury.

MD: “Nothing was private. Your whole bodily functions were exposed to everybody, including visitors. It was so dehumanising.”

SM: Maggie was rejected by her previous workplace and shunted into a hostel for ‘others like her’. Conditions were awful.

MD: “I was just suicidal, to be honest. And the other thing we were all doing was we were all killing ourselves with alcohol.”

SM: Attitudes, even in some of the established charities, could be deeply patronising. When 1981 was dubbed the International Year of the Disabled, pop singer Ian Dury responded with Spasticus Autisticus.


SM: The BBC refused to play it. Maggie Davis’ husband Ken was also unimpressed by the year-long initiative.

KD: “It was disabled people’s reaction in horror to the idea that full participation and equality, which was the slogan of the international year, was going to be carried forward by a coffee morning, and disabled people were not apparently invited at all, at first, and that the second thing was a craft competition to find the best basket weaver. Well, I mean, is that really what full participation and equality was about?”

SM: Towards the end of the 80s, there was still huge room for improvement. Access to public transport was still severely limited. Wheelchair users had to give several days’ notice to travel on the train, and in the guard’s van.

M: “Do you put all disabled people in these things? There’s first class, there’s second class, and there’s sub-human class, and we’re sub-human.”

SM: There was frustration for disabled drivers, too.

F: “I’ve got the premium for you. It would be £224.88″

M: “Yeah. Just out of interest, is that any more than it would be if I wasn’t disabled?”

F: “I regret to say it is, yes.”

M: “It is? How much?”

F: “A 33% loading.”

M: “33%?”

SM: With the passing of race and sex discrimination laws, people with disabilities began to question why they didn’t have similar rights. Campaigner Mike Oliver:

MO: “All we were asking for was a decent education, the right to work, to be able to access the same kind of buildings and leisure as everybody else, the right to decide what time we got up in the morning, what time we went to bed at night, and the right to decide who we went to bed with.”

SM: The Disabled Persons Act came in in 1986. A year on, disabled people lobbied parliament demanding greater action, and the then Minister for the Disabled, John Major, argued that this wasn’t necessary.

JM: “I understand that people feel very strongly about this, and I understand that they wish to lobby, and I think it’s perfectly proper that they should do so. But I’m bound to say that the discussions that they presumably would wish to take place have already been arranged, and are already taking place in advance of that lobby.”

SM: In 1988, when proposed changes to social security payments loomed, disabled people were especially worried. Around a thousand of them gathered outside the Social Services headquarters in London’s Elephant and Castle.

F: “We are sick and tired of discrimination against us in every place we turn.”

F: “This, I think, is a beginning for us to be understood as a civil rights movement, and not as pathetic objects of charity, staying at home and being good.”


SM: Well, joining me now in the studio are four disabled people who know a great deal about the history of discrimination and legislation. Sir Bert Massie, former chairman of the Disability Rights Commission; Baroness Campbell, Jane Campbell, activist and campaigner, and crossbencher peer; Adam Thomas, a campaigner who was paralysed after a motorbike accident, and Peter White, the BBC’s disability correspondent. And also joining us from Westminster is Lord Hague, William Hague, who as Minister for Disabled People took the Disability Discrimination Bill through parliament 21 years ago. Let me start with you, Jane Campbell, and I should explain that the breathing noise that we hear… it’s fairly quiet, but it is your ventilator.

JC: It is indeed. In fact, in the House of Lords, when I gave my speech after I started wearing it, I announced that I’d gone away in the summer and I’d come back an astronaut, and they seemed to be okay after that.

SM: Let me ask all of you, including you first, Jane, have you been disabled all your life?

JC: I was born with my disability. I have spinal muscular atrophy type 1-2, and when I was born, my mother was told to take me home and enjoy me, because I would be dead within the year. Of course, here I am at 56 and still shouting.

SM: Let me move to Bert Massie. Bert, I know that you contracted polio when you were pretty young.

BM: Yes, there was a number of epidemics after the war, and in keeping with the provision at that time, I spent the next five years in hospital. Can you imagine? Today you wouldn’t get many children spending five years in a hospital. That’s a quite interesting hospital, because once you were basically recovered they would stick you out on a cold balcony, because they thought if you had polio you needed fresh air. But it was bitterly cold, and we’d all be given balaclavas to wear, so we were like an early IRA cell.

SM: Adam Thomas, I think you became disabled as a result of an accident.

AT: Yes.

SM: You were on a motorbike?

AT: Yes, I was going round a bend doing 45 miles an hour at 16, and got a puncture in my back tyre and skidded off.

SM: But it must have been really tough being a teenager and suddenly, what, quite heavily disabled? You couldn’t walk any more. You were in a wheelchair.

AT: Yeah, I’m paralysed from my high chest down. Many a time my local cinema wouldn’t let me in. They said that I was a fire hazard. And on probably four or five occasions I actually stopped the film starting because I refused to leave. But I had the most amazing family, the most amazing group of friends, and a very, very good employer that spent a lot of money adapting his policies and the way he worked so that I could carry on my job as a kitchen designer, and through that I decided I wanted to start designing for elderly and disabled people.

SM: William Hague, a lot us of a certain age remember you as a teenager getting up at the Conservative party conference and making a name for yourself then. How aware were you of the plight of disabled people, do you think, at that point in your life?

WH: I don’t think, being brutally honest, that I was aware of it much at all. There were arguments about equal rights that were about race and about gender, but they weren’t at that time about disability rights. Once I became a member of parliament in 1989, by which time disabled people were themselves taking up these issues, disabled people, particularly young disabled people coming to see me as a new member of parliament, brought these issues to my attention.

SM: Peter White, let me turn to you, because you’ve been blind all your life.

PW: I like the George Shearing answer to that question, “Have you been blind all your life?” which is, “Not yet.”

SM: And you were a bit of a pioneer in terms of broadcasting as a blind person about others with disabilities.

PW: Well, yeah. When I first went down to local radio – I sort of hitchhiked down to Radio Solent to try and get into broadcasting – the guy who was doing a programme for blind people said, “We’d like you to do a programme for blind people,” and I said, “That’s the last thing I want to do. I want to do rock ‘n’ roll or football, or something.” To be absolutely honest I resisted getting into broadcasting.

SM: But you ended up as the BBC’s disability correspondent. Do you remember changes in attitude in the 70s? Disabled people got a bit more stroppy about their plight.

PW: Oh, absolutely. It was really very noticeable in that when I started, we would be doing things about gadgets and nice hoists and things like that, and really politics didn’t play very much part in it.

SM: So they became much more… I hesitate to use the word aggressive, but they did become much more pushy about their rights, disabled people.

PW: Well, they were doing what the Vietnam vets had done. They came back from Vietnam and discovered that they couldn’t get into any of the buildings they wanted to go into, they couldn’t get jobs, and they got very angry about that. So UK was borrowing quite a lot of that from the United States.

SM: Bert Massie, do you remember a sort of change of tactics? Because you actually became part of an organisation called RADAR, I remember, way back.

BM: Yes. The organisations had to start taking accounts, certainly in the 80s, that disabled people were saying, “Look, we don’t want non-disabled people setting our policy for us. And actually, if we set it, we get it better.” I think at RADAR, I was the first disabled chief executive they’d had.

SM: Jane Campbell, you must have been campaigning around this time that Bert’s talking about. What are your memories of the time?

JC: When I came across the disability movement and they explained to me the social model. I mean, it was so simple.

SM: Society is being run by the wrong people, in a way. Disabled people should be in charge.

JC: It’s basically saying that you are not the problem. My condition and my person is not the problem, it’s the fact that society is not accessible, and unequal in its treatment towards disabled people. We had a very strong mantra which was, “Nothing about us without us.”

SM: Adam Thomas.

AT: You have to remember, going back to the 70s and 80s, you had millions of isolated disabled people living on their own, either in homes, communities, etc, run by a lot of the big organisations, or people like myself who didn’t know other disabled people other than the people they happened to go through hospital with, getting more angry, more frustrated, more lonely and sad. And it was through seeing people like DAN, the Direct Action Network people, doing demos… That how I woke up. I saw them on the television doing a demo, and I thought, “That’s what I want to do.”

SM: Did the politicians take notice, William Hague? From sitting inside the hallowed halls…

WH: Absolutely, yes. Certainly some of those were quite eye-catching, and from the early 1990s onwards there was a head of steam developing on this in the political world, taken up first by the Labour party, and a political divide started to open up between a Conservative government that was not keen on more regulation, with some MPs very enthusiastically pressing for legislation and the government not wanting it.

SM: Of course, what was also very effective, Jane Campbell, as you’ll remember, were the demos. Do you recall your first demo?

JC: Well, for instance, we would line the bridge, Westminster Bridge. Normally it was the electric wheelchairs. Now, these wheelchairs, you cannot lift them; it takes five grown men. And there we would stay, and we would stop the traffic. That began to capture the attention of the public, for good or bad.

SM: And did it attract the attention of the police as well?

JC: It certainly did, yes. I remember once the police came, and they brought their vans along in order to bundle us in the back. Unfortunately you can’t bundle and electric wheelchair in the back of a van, so they then walked us down to the local police station. But of course, they couldn’t put us in any cells because they were downstairs, so in the end they would turn to us and say, “Oh, for god’s sake, just go,’ and so we would go away, muttering, “It’s our right to be arrested.”

M: “And to all of you I just want to say that your triumph is that your bill will now be law…”

SM: The early 1990s saw an increasingly well-organised disability lobby. Campaigners here were encouraged by the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States, which provided a good example of what could be achieved.

M: “…all of you have made this happen.”

SM: Disabled Americans now had the right to go anywhere and use most services. But in Britain, disabled people were often portrayed as helpless victims on show’s like ITV’s Telethon. Mike Oliver was among those who attended the loud demonstration outside the TV station in 1990.

MO: “…are begging on our behalf. And if they’re listening, we want to tell you. You don’t have our permission.”

M: “I don’t believe that the disabled people in this country don’t gain from the vast sums of money that are raised. I mean, they must do. The whole thing, surely, is just to make their lives better and happier.”

SM: In the UK, comprehensive legislation was spurned ahead of voluntary initiatives. In 1992, John Major, the Prime Minister, welcomed employers’ efforts to improve opportunities for disabled people at work.

JM: “It is a huge waste of a national and economic resource not to use that particular talent.”

M: “It must be very much better that we go down a path whereby by voluntary means we achieve these sorts of objectives, rather than having to enforce the full panoply of the law.”

SM: More militant campaigners formed the Direct Action Network, or DAN, and tried a bit of persuasion of their own, as Emily Buchanan reported for the BBC.

EB: “The disabled have had enough charity. Now, they want civil rights backed by legislation. Their campaign came to a head this week with demonstrations outside parliament. They blocked the main entrance to the House of Commons, giving MPs and members of the public a taste of the frustrations they face every day.”

M: “Westminster bridge, underneath a bus.”

M: “And what have you done to the bus?”

M: “I’ve just chained myself to it with handcuffs.”

SM: The police tried their best to deal with the situation.

M: “You’ve had your protest, but you can’t stay here all day. Do you understand?”

SM: Not everyone approved.

F: “You’d better go home, causing all this trouble. It’s disgusting.”

SM: Victoria Scott, who worked for the charity RADAR, organised in 1994 what turned out to be the largest lobby by disabled people ever held in Britain.

VS: “It was an extraordinary moment, and I think it was a sea change. MPs were faced with disabled constituents who were very vocal, very angry, and very clear about what they wanted. That’s a very hard message to ignore.”

SM: By now politicians and campaigners were often working closely together. Labour MP Roger Berry’s private members’ Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill sailed through to its third reading. At which point, Nicholas Scott, the Minister for the Disabled, intervened.

NS: “…prejudice and misunderstandings and other matters cannot be removed simply by legislation, they do need a very great deal of education and persuasion.”

SM: As did four of his Conservative colleagues, including…

F: “Mr Deputy Speaker, before I introduce my own new clause and amendments, I do think we ought to make one thing absolutely clear. Everyone in this house has one prime concern, and that is for the care and for the disabled.”

SM: The former Labour Minister for the Disabled, Alf Morris, was suspicious about the true origin of the 80 amendments.

AM: “…tell us this morning how many were drafted by the government, and at taxpayer’s expense?”

SM: It didn’t take long to find out that the amendments had in fact all been written by the government, prompting more fury from campaigners, and embarrassment for Lady Olga Maitland, who was rebuked by the speaker of the house, Betty Boothroyd.

BB: “I believe that the honourable lady’s statement fell below the standards that the House is entitled to expect from its members, and I strongly rebuke her for her conduct.”

SM: Nicholas Scott was also in the firing line.

M: “Labour tonight stepped up their campaign against the minister who misled parliament.”

SM: Among the vocal critics was Victoria Scott, who was also the minister’s daughter. Here’s what she said at the time.

VS: “I think it is grounds for there to be an enormous amount of shame on this government that they’ve denied disabled people their rights in such an underhand way. … Professionally, I’m very, very angry. Personally, I feel rather let down, yes.”

SM: The family drama shot the campaign into the public arena. Nicholas Scott didn’t resign, but a few months later in July ’94, he was shuffled out.

F: “RADAR and the coalition of disability organisations always took stands at party conferences, and at the party conference after the Civil Rights Bill I was standing giving out leaflets and somebody came up and spat at me.”

SM: The new Minister for Disabled People was a rising star of the Conservative party.

WH: “I am delighted to join you today. Whatever we announce in the future, we will continue to work towards building an environment where people throughout our country have a much more positive attitude towards disabled people.”

SM: William Hague, you’ll remember that day well. You’ll probably remember saying that. But the fact remained that this was an embarrassing moment for the Conservative party over these amendments, and it was discovered that they’d all actually been prompted by Lady Olga Maitland and several others.

WH: Yes, it was a terrible shambles from the government’s point of view. Deeply embarrassing to my predecessor Nick Scott, who we just heard speaking there.

SM: Well, you were very much a rising star of the Conservative party. You must have wanted to kick some of your bosses over that.

WH: Yes I did, and I was very conscious that if I didn’t handle this well, I wouldn’t be a rising star any more. I remember sitting down my first weekend as the minister with a great pile of all the previous debates, and all of the pronouncements of all of the campaigning groups on this, and just thinking very hard up at my home in Yorkshire about how could we get to legislation that the government could support as well as the parliament.

SM: You had a good ally, though, in John Major, didn’t you?

WH: Well, I had a crucial ally in John Major, who I think until this point had not really asserted himself in the government about it. He had a good deal of sympathy with the campaign for legislation, but there were powerful figures within his government who were against that. These events prompted him to assert himself and his own views, and then to give crucial backup, because I was a minister outside the cabinet, and I couldn’t have done that without being able to call in the big heavy bomber now and again, and he really did that with some of the other senior members of the government.

SM: So, Peter White, putting on your journalistic hat now, this was a really hot potato issue for the Conservative party, wasn’t it, and it indeed divided the Scott family? Nicholas Scott was considered to have behaved badly and his daughter Vicky Scott was a campaigner against the government.

PW: That’s right. Because trying to get disability onto the front pages in those days… it’s not so difficult nowadays. It’s been on the front pages for the last few weeks. But in those days, it wasn’t easy to get a story. But here you had father-daughter conflict and the government (unclear 00:21:21), and it got it absolutely on the front pages.

SM: Adam Thomas, as a campaigner, you actually got to know Victoria very well, Victoria Scott.

AT: Yes. She kindly asked me, originally asked me, to come and stuff envelopes as a volunteer for three, four weeks leading up to the first ever lobby of parliament, and so I became the coordinator of the Right Now campaign, the civil rights campaign for disabled people. We managed to get two and a half thousand disabled people to the first ever lobby of parliament, and it was really… the cameras were only interested in the sort of 20 or so disabled people who were chaining themselves up outside.

SM: Including you.

AT: Yeah.

SM: Is that how you met your wife? Somebody told me.

AT: Yes.

SM: Give us a bit more detail on that.

AT: I was handcuffed to one bus, and it turned out my wife happened to be handcuffed to the bus which was in front of my one, and our eyes met…

SM: And that was it.

AT: Yes.

SM: Bert Massie, you were campaigning in a much more dignified way. Were you quite jealous of their tactics?

BM: No, the tactics were essential. I don’t think members of parliament on the inside of the house would have really realised what was happening. Then, of course, at this stage William had become the minister, and I was called to his office. Then the tea was poured out, and then everybody left. So it was just me and William, and William said, “Look, I will bring forward a bill, but I need some people to give me some support on it.” And I asked William, “Well, what would be in the bill?” And it was pretty emaciated to be honest. And I said, “Look, I really can’t… You know, I can’t sell it.”

JC: I think we would have hung you.

BM: Yeah, I said, “I can’t sell it and I need more.” And William said, “Look, if you put down amendments, where I can, I will be helpful,” and he seemed quite genuine about this, and we did put a lot of amendments in and got them, in all fairness. But the one thing he couldn’t move on, which was the one thing that disabled people wanted desperately, was an enforcement agency, the Disability Rights Commission.

SM: “You have to do it.”

BM: And William, again, he was quite honest about it. “This is the Tory party; we don’t believe in quangos.”

SM: Is that how you remember it, William Hague?

WH: Well, roughly, yes. [Laughter]. What was going on when I was presenting Bert with a framework that he just called a rather emaciated is I was starting with something that I could build up, a sort of Christmas tree approach to this. “Then we will see what we can add to it,” and end up with a piece of legislation which not everybody in the government might have intended to have at the beginning, but that would nevertheless be an enormous step forward. And the gap at the end, as Bert’s just been saying, was the existence of a commission. I always thought that would come later.

SM: It took a long time.

WH: Well, it took another few years, and it was brought in by the Labour government four years later, and by then I was leader of the Conservative party, and I ensured the Conservatives didn’t oppose that. So we got there. I steadily got more and more government departments into it, as well as the essential framework of requiring reasonable adjustments from employers, and physical changes to buildings and so on.

SM: Jane Campbell, I don’t know… How well aware were you of all this going on behind the scenes?

JC: We were very well aware. The disability movement used to get furious with all these meetings that were taking place without us. One of the things that we did – quite reluctantly, but it worked very well – was that we set up Rights Now, which would allow the traditional charities into the campaign. We were growing in number rapidly. Thousands and thousands of new disabled people were coming into the movement. It was our liberation moment, Sue, and our liberation moment was for disabled people; it was not for those who spoke on our behalf.

VS: “Last year was really an example in how not to defeat a bill. There was egg on their face. They’re going to want to clean up their act this year.”

SM: Victoria Scott summed up the mood of an impatient lobby, but at last the government was ready to legislate.

F: “The government has presented its plans for new legislation to eliminate discrimination against disabled people.”

SM: William Hague, in only his second job in government, introduced his first piece of legislation.

WH: “Taken together, they will represent the greatest advance for disabled people in the history of this country.”

SM: Some campaigners thought something more substantial was needed, and pinned their hopes on Derbyshire MP Harry Barnes.

HB: “The problem is, it is a very small step indeed for disabled people. It is not getting them anywhere. It is barely taking them much past that Rubicon, and it can be constructed in such a ways that it, as it were, pushes them back into it.”

SM: William Hague defended his bill.

WH: “I believe the government’s proposals are clear, in that they give people specific obligations and rights, in a way which the bill presented by the honourable member for Derbyshire North East would not; they are workable in that they provide for flexibility and practical solutions to distinct problems, and the honourable member’s bill does not; and they are fair in that they end discrimination while considering the interests of others, and the honourable member’s bill does not.”

SM: Bert Massie of RADAR at the time identified a key flaw.

BM: “The bill at the moment really has no enforcement powers and it has no monitoring powers, and that’s really like the government passing a law and giving nobody the power to enforce it, so that’s a crucial thing in the bill which is missing.”

SM: This campaigner said there were gaps in the government’s bill.

F: “It says nothing about transport, it says nothing about access, and it’s totally unenforceable. It’s a con, and we’re not having it.”

SM: Reporter Alison Holt:

AH: “As the demonstrators marched across Westminster Bridge in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament, about 30 blockaded the road. People in wheelchairs handcuffed themselves to the radiator grills and handrails of buses on the bridge.”

M: “If it takes a court appearance to get disabled people their civil rights in this country, then that’s what I’m prepared to do.”

AH: “It took police, using bolt cutters on the handcuffs, half an hour to clear the road.”

SM: On the 8th November 1995, the Disability Discrimination Act became law.

M: “It’s now illegal for employers to discriminate against disabled people. There’s been a 20 year campaign to get the new law in place. But while government ministers insist it does give disabled people genuine rights, there is by no means total agreement among disabled people themselves.”

SM: Well, that’s something we’ve already highlighted. There was a lot of angst going on, and a lot of aggro. But William Hague, as the minister who steered the Disability Discrimination Act through, you must have felt pretty happy about it?

WH: Well, I’ve always said it’s my proudest achievement as a member of parliament. That’s partly because of performing this Houdini-like act of escaping from the impossible problem of the government being opposed to it and parliament being in favour of it, but it’s mainly because it has made an important difference to the lives of millions of people in this country. So it wouldn’t have happened without the campaigning and without the various efforts of the other people on this programme, and many others. So yes, it was a big highlight of my 26 years in parliament.

SM: It did affect, I believe, six and a half million people, but small business – was it 20 employees or under? – didn’t have to employ disable people or make allowances for them.

WH: Well, there were. You can imagine the sort of arguments we had in the cabinet. And I was mainly opposed by the ministers who were in charge of the big economic departments.

SM: You mean the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

WH: Yes, Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine, in charge of the big… you know, the Treasury, the Trade and Industry department, on grounds of new regulation, new quangos. So some of these things, like where to draw the line on small businesses, were the political compromise that emerged from that. And that meant this legislation had all kinds of deficiencies from the campaigners’ point of view. Nevertheless, it had a very important effect even with its admitted deficiencies.

SM: And Jane Campbell, what did you think had been achieved at that moment of the passing of the bill?

JC: Well, on the positive side, for the first time in our lives, we felt that we had a right as a full citizen to participate in society. But the next big job was to get it implemented, and that’s been quite a rough road.

SM: Let me move to you, Adam Thomas. What did you make of the bill once it was published?

AT: I was, shall we say, a lot more militant in those days than I am now. When the legislation came out, it wasn’t what we wanted. We thought it was tokenism. Personally, I wanted the act to be repealed, and I wanted the other side to bring it in, because they were the ones who’d been fighting with it, or working with us for so long… and I didn’t want the Tories to get the credit.

SM: But do you think now that it was a good thing?

AT: I do, yes. The Disability Discrimination Act is fantastic, and it’s still not everything that we want, and I am sad as an individual that it has taken so long to get where we are with it.

SM: Bert Massie, your thoughts on this stage of legislation?

BM: Well, I described the first bill as emaciated. It did get some flesh put onto it. When the bill was first published, you had the right to get onto the bus, but if you couldn’t get onto the bus, the right was no good. So by specifying how buses are made, now all buses are low floor. In the first bill insurance was very weak, and I heard on the grapevine it was actually William and Peter Lilley who pushed insurance into the bill, because the insurance companies were determined to stay out of it.

SM: Insurance for what?

BM: Insurance companies as a matter of policy said disabled people were a greater risk. They had no evidence, and they just put the premium up. We were just cash cows for insurance companies.

TB: “To begin with, obviously, we will take the legislation as it is and try and make the improvements that we tried to do during the passage of the act itself.”

SM: The disability lobby thought they had an ally in Labour. In this interview with Peter White, the new Labour leader Tony Blair promised to beef up the Disability Discrimination Act if his party won the ’97 election.

TB: “…certainly do not rule out the prospect of a civil rights piece of legislation at a later stage.”

SM: But once Labour was inside Number 10, sympathy seemed to drain away. A leaked internal memo suggested that cuts to disability benefits were on the cards.

F: “…of disabled protestors made their way up Whitehall and staged a noisy demonstration at the gates of Downing Street, hurling red paint on the pavement and railings, chanting that Tony Blair had blood on his hands.”

TB: “It cannot be right to be spending as much money as we do, ever rising bills, more, and more, and more, and more, whilst people who are in poverty often don’t get the help that they need. We now, through fraud within the social security system, lose an amount every year equivalent to the building of 100 brand new hospitals.”

SM: Jane Campbell felt ambivalent about her elevation.

JC: “I’ve just been appointed to the government’s task force on civil rights. This is a complete irony. How can we have civil rights if our benefits are taken away? The benefits actually get us out of bed in the morning to try and get those civil rights.”

SM: But the Labour government did find a way of enforcing disability rights.

F: “The rights of disabled people will be enforced by a special commission under plans published by the government today. The independent body would promote equal opportunities, advise people of their rights and sponsor legal cases.”

SM: The commission kept tabs on how well the law was being observed. In 2004, the deadline arrived for shops and businesses to make their premises more accessible. But there was a problem.

M: “Just days before new laws to improve access for disabled people come into force, the 6 O’Clock News has learned that many high street businesses still aren’t ready. The Disability Rights Commission found that disabled people experience problems gaining access to shops in four out of five cities surveyed. Access to nearly a quarter of the stores was poor or very poor, and problems getting around the high street added an average two hours to disabled people’s shopping trips.”

F: “If shops are accessible and I can reach everything, it’s all just so easy, and the world feels like a nice place and I feel like I’ve had a good day. And then other times I just come home and I’m just like, ‘Why did I leave the house this morning?’ ”

SM: It was the Disability Rights Commission’s job to enforce the law, and some companies were taken to court.

M: “Now, in the first of a number of cases, the Disability Rights Commission is taking legal action against the high street chain Debenhams, and the Spirit Pub Group, for failing to make what it sees as reasonable provision for disabled people.”

SM: Alison Lapper, a disabled artist born without arms, was famously portrayed on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in a sculpture by Marc Quinn.

AL: “They’ve had 10 years, now, to get their act together. We haven’t just sprung this on them.”

SM: On the 20th anniversary of the act last November, Barbara Lisicki, a strong supporter of direct action, felt little had been gained despite the efforts of so many.

BL: “When the disability movement was at its starting point, there was a real sense of collective solidarity, and that’s all gone. Organisations have been cut because they’ve lost their funding. Some people thought, ‘Well, we’ve won with the Disability Discrimination Act.’ We didn’t win. It was never a victory. All that I ever said to people… At least now the government agrees with us that discrimination happens.”

SM: Well, Jane Campbell, it seems that the euphoria which came with the passing of the bill dissipated quite quickly in the new millennium.

JC: It became evident that if this piece of legislation was going to work, you needed to promote it, you needed to enforce it, and you needed to help disabled people take cases, and that’s why the Disability Rights Commission was so important, and that is why, when it was closed six years later, we were just beginning to get somewhere.

SM: What you were referring to was the Disability Rights Commission being subsumed into the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

JC: Absolutely, far too early.

SM: What’s your feeling about it now, William Hague? Obviously you were very proud of the legislation. Do you feel it’s been watered down?

WH: Well, the legislation has been added to further, but there are still major problems. There are problems of attitudes, and problems of hate crime, and there are places that have not observed the legal obligations to provide equal accessibility.

SM: Well, if governments want to touch disability benefits… There has been quite a row about PIPs –

WH: Quite a row.

SM: – Personal Independence Payments. Is there a sense that one cannot take away any sort of benefit for disabled people without a huge row?

WH: Well, I think successive governments are finding that, actually. You were playing some archive footage of disputes in the time of the Blair government. That’s been true again this year under a Conservative government.

SM: What would you advise the present government to do?

WH: I’ve retired from doing that.

SM: Oh, go on.

WH: I’m not going to give them any advice, and they’ve already said that they will stick to things that came before this budget, and I think they’re recognising there that it would be very difficult to get such things through parliament anyway.

SM: Adam Thomas, what do you think, as a disabled person still needs to be done? Have you experienced things that have been awkward, even recently?

AT: Yes, but not nearly as much as in the old days. The, “Does he take sugar?” syndrome hasn’t happened in a long time, and when it does, it really does flummox me.

SM: Like what?

AT: Oh, meeting me for the first time and saying, “What’s wrong with you?’

SM: What do you say to them?

AT: Society. Which is what I’ve been saying for 20 years. There’s nothing wrong with me. If you design the steps correctly or turn them into a ramp, then I can join in with society as well as anyone else can.

SM: Jane Campbell, are you angry still?

JC: Oh, I think I’m always going to be angry, Sue, it’s in my nature. It’s great that William Hague still recognises we have a long way to go, because as of this week I’m on a select committee that’s looking at the Equality Act 20 years on to see whether it’s basically working for disabled people in the way that we envisaged. And guess what, Sue, 50 recommendations. I mean, little things like why aren’t we switching the taxi regulation on to say that taxis have to take a disabled person? I can be sitting in the street and hail a taxi, and it drive past me and go and pick an able bodied person up.

SM: You’ve seen that happen lately?

JC: It happens all the time.

BM: Oh, yes.

AT: It happened to me two days ago.

JC: But if they enforced the law, they wouldn’t be able to do it any more.

SM: Peter White, how do you see it?

PW: I take a slightly different line, because I think right from 1997, although Labour had supported that bill, it was a matter of months before they began to talk about cutting benefits; Mr Blair mentioned fraud. There’s very little evidence of fraud – of course there’s some; there always is – but there was always a risk with the bill that governments of all colours would say, “We’ve given you your rights, so we don’t have to give you as many benefits.”

SM: Do you think attitudes have changed to disabled people in Britain as a result of legislation?

PW: Not as much as some people would have you believe. We’ve had this old shibboleth of the Paralympics. Now, I’m someone who’s excited by the Paralympics, I’ve covered it a lot, but it’s made people think that because they cheer Jonnie Peacock winning the 100m, they’ve somehow done something in terms of changing attitudes. They haven’t.

SM: Attitudes, Bert, have they changed for the better?

BM: I think they have changed for the better, and quite considerably, but I think the Paralympic thing is misleading. What we had with the Paralympics was two images of disabled people, one as a superhero, and at the same time the government were trying to soften up the population to make benefit cuts. So we had another narrative coming from government of benefit scrounging scum. I think the one thing where attitudes have improved a bit is disabled people, as distinct to the 50s and 60s, are out there now, and you’ll see them in the restaurants now, and I think that does actually take away the fear and the anxiety of the non-disabled population.

WH: I think 20, 21 years later, the attitudes of most people in this country, including most employers, are radically different from in the 1990s and 1980s, but you can’t put your hand on your heart and say we treat disabled people equally in every respect.

SM: And what’s it been like for all of you, re-living those days? Has it been good getting back together again, Bert Massie?

BM: Well, it’s been good to get together, of course. But when I was reading the papers for that time in preparation for the programme, I remember just how exhausted I felt at the time. You know, being in the House of Lords at 2 o’clock in the morning was quite common, trying to get amendments through. Listening to how far we have to go, I think perhaps I need to find that energy again.

SM: Adam Thomas?

AT: To be honest, they were the best days of my life. I was allowed to witness the most incredible piece of history.

SM: And Jane?

JC: Well, for me, it just keeps that fire stoking within my belly, because that’s why I’m continuing to fight. I can’t not do it. It’s the revolution, and it hasn’t quite come to its fruition yet.

SM: Jane Campbell, Bert Massie, Peter White, Adam Thomas, and William Hague, thank you all very much indeed.

(End of recording)
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