National Survey calls on disabled community to share experiences of access to music services

December 19, 2018

National Survey calls on disabled community to share experiences of access to music services


I work for Creative United on the Take it away scheme, which offers interest-free loans for musical instruments, equipment, software and tuition, funded by Arts Council England and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. We are currently working in partnership with OHMI, Drake Music, Open Up Music and Youth Music on a big consortium initiative to address the barriers to music making faced by disabled people. I notice that UKDHM this year is focussing on Music and Disability so there is obvious crossover here.

Part of the work we’re doing includes a major research project aiming to capture a detailed picture of the experiences of disabled people (and disabled children in particular) regarding music making. Recent statistics published by the Musician’s Union show that increasingly children in state schools and particularly those from low income families are unable to access the opportunities available to their more affluent peers, and while we know anecdotally that this includes a large number of disabled young people, there are no national data sets available that describe the experiences and particular barriers faced by disabled children and young people with regard to participation in music.

We want to gather a robust set of evidence that will enable us to lobby for meaningful change and to direct resources where parents and children tell us they are most needed. To this end, we have launched a survey inviting music makers (and their parents and carers) to tell us about their experiences; we want to hear from those with first hand experience of this issue what the barriers to music making opportunities might be, and what needs to be done to remove these and ensure accessible and inclusive opportunities exist for all.

Can you help us publicise the survey? I imagine the audiences engaging with UKDHM would have valuable insights they might like to share. A story on your website, mention in a newsletter, and/or social media comms would all be extremely helpful. We really want to ensure that everyone with something to say on this issue has the chance to have their voice heard.

Attached is our press release with further info, and below are links here to Facebook and Twitter posts about the surveys. We’ve added a prize draw incentive to give everyone who fills in the survey a chance to win £100.

pinned tweet
pinned FB post

Please let me know if you have any questions or need images, and thanks so much in advance for any support you are able to give us.

Best wishes,


Holly McBride

Project Consultant, Take it away Scheme

**Please note, I work part time; my usual working day is Wednesday.**

P.S. Are you involved in making music, as a musician, educator or music retailer? Please help us shape the future of accessible music making. Tell us how it is, in our Access to Music Survey

Creative United

New Wing | Somerset House |Strand

London WC2R 1LA

2018 Launch Event

December 4, 2018

Monday 19th November 2018,
Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, Parliament

George McKay Professor of Media Studies at the University of East Anglia

Tinukeh Jonah sings If You Leave

Kiri Tunks President National Education Union

John Kelly Drake Music, performs two songs Fit in a Box and Winds of Change

Dame Evelyn Glennie Percussionist and educator

Lizzie Emeh performs two songs: Hard Love and Sunnyside

Sir Richard Stilgoe singer/songwriter, Orpheus Centre

Marsha de Cordova MP Shadow Disability Minister

Richard Rieser Coordinator of UKDHM and CEO of World of Inclusion

John McDonnell MP Shadow Chancellor

Day of Action on Disability Equality in the Education System gets support across the country. Meeting very successful

November 23, 2018


A woman speaks from a platform with campaigning pictures pinned to the table she is sitting at
Union leads call for action on ‘silent massacre’ of disabled staff and students 0

Disabled teachers, lecturers and students have come together to call for sweeping changes to disability equality laws, and to highlight the barriers they face across the education sector.

A parliamentary meeting heard last night (Wednesday) how disabled people working in the education sector have been confronted by employers that are failing to provide them with accessible lecture and teaching spaces, denying them the right to disability leave – for disability-related absence from work – and delaying the provision of the reasonable adjustments they need and are entitled to under the Equality Act.

The event, hosted by Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha de Cordova, was part of the University and College Union’s (UCU) first national day of action for disability equality in education.

Joanna Vanderhoof (pictured), co-chair of UNISON’s eastern region disabled members’ committee, described how she had been forced to go through an internal grievance procedure to secure the reasonable adjustments she needed from her university employer.

She said she had been “fundamentally failed” by her employer and as a result set up a disabled staff network and implemented workplace training on disability equality.

She said: “My employer broke current legislation in multiple areas yet I’m the one who has suffered and they face no repercussions whatsoever.”

She said she felt “utterly trapped because I can’t move to another job easily the way others can because I am disabled”.

Vanderhoof said that current legislation was “simply not sufficient”.

Disabled physics teacher Saeeda Bugtti said she had gone from being a highly-praised “poster girl” for her school to being asked if she wanted to take early retirement, after she became disabled.

She said: “As soon as I became disabled, I was too much of a problem.”

She echoed other speakers who had described how long it took for reasonable adjustments to be agreed and implemented by employers.

Another disabled member of staff said it had taken his “affluent” university – which had a surplus of £200 million – one-and-a-half years to provide him with a telephone with an amplifier.

He said the current legislation was “toothless” and there was a need to campaign for “a more effective Equality Act”.

Elane Heffernan, chair of UCU’s disabled members’ standing committee, who chaired the meeting, said: “We have to win this change. We cannot have this silent massacre of workers in education and students who cannot even get in through the door in the first place in terms of education.”

The meeting also heard how further education colleges and universities, motivated by increasing pressure to cut costs and increase revenue, were refusing to support disabled students and even attempting to force then out because it was too expensive to provide them with the support they needed.

Rachel O’Brien, disabled students’ officer for the NUS, said there was an increasing “marketisation” of further and higher education, as well as cuts to disabled students’ allowance in higher education and the introduction of education, health and care plans in further education, which had also led to cuts in support.

She said the introduction of “fitness to study” policies – assessing whether someone can continue as a student by looking at aspects of their life on campus such as health, behavior and attendance – implicitly or even explicitly targeted disabled students, such as those with mental health conditions, and could see them kicked off their courses.

She said: “It is no coincidence that this has come in at the same time as marketisation.

“Disabled students, to be frank, are expensive. Universities and colleges are being forced to be businesses.

“They have incentives to get rid of us, and they are trying to do it as fast as they possibly can.”

Among UCU’s demands are for legal rights to disability leave, a review of building regulations to ensure facilities are fully accessible, and strict time limits for reasonable adjustments to be provided for disabled staff.

Campaigners who have supported the UCU campaign – including other unions such as the National Education Union and Unison – also want a legal right for disabled people to access mainstream education and a reversal of cuts to special educational needs and disability (SEND) spending.

Michelle Daley, an inclusive education campaigner, said that disabled people should not be asking for “reasonable adjustments” but should be seeking “adjustments as a right” if that was what they needed to be able to function.

Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator for The Alliance for Inclusive Education, said: “Education funding has an impact on our right to access mainstream education.

“We are increasingly seeing attacks on provision of support and local authority support and disabled students’ allowance support in mainstream education.”

She said there was “more and more money being ploughed into segregated provision”, which amounted to an “ideological attack” on disabled people’s right to inclusive education.

Paula Peters, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “It is so important that disabled people have role models but disabled staff within education settings are… under attack from workplace discrimination and worsening conditions at work, with experiences of hostile environments and isolation at work all far too commonplace. This is unacceptable.”

The idea for the day of action originally came from the union-funded National Disabled People’s Summit, which was held at the headquarters of the National Education Union in central London last November and was co-organised by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance.

The House of Commons event also coincided with the start of Disability History Month (see separate story).
Line up on 21st November
RR on 21st Day of Action against Disability Discrimination in Education

Richard Rieser, founder of Disability History Month, told the day of action event that there was a need to “learn from the history” when it came to the increasing segregation of disabled children and young people, and he added: “We have the right to be treated with equality and challenge all the historic assumptions that have been made about us for many hundreds of years.”

The day saw UCU branches across the country organise activities to raise awareness about the issues faced by disabled staff and students, with support tweeted through the hashtag #IncludeUs.

One of those actions took place at the University of Liverpool, and involved disabled lecturer Dr Kay Inckle, who told Disability News Service in August how she had been forced to scour the campus for accessible rooms in which she could deliver her lectures.

She was even told that it might be considered “reasonable” for her to go down stairs on her bottom in some circumstances rather than be timetabled into ground floor or fully accessible rooms

Disability News Service Report on 19th November UKDHM launch

22 November 2018

Parliamentary event recognises disabled musicians who trumped oppression

A parliamentary event has recognised some of the many artists over the centuries whose talent as musicians has “trumped” the oppression they experienced as disabled people.

The event was held to launch the ninth annual Disability History Month, which this year focuses on disability and music and runs from 19 November to 22 December.

Richard Rieser, founder and coordinator of UK Disability History Month (UKDHM), listed many of the countless disabled musicians – many of whose impairments are not widely known – whose “creative impulse, the urge for self-expression, the need to connect to our fellow human beings” have trumped “the oppression we as disabled people face”.

Those he mentioned included Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Connie Boswell, Itzhak Perlman, Frederick Delius, Beethoven, Hector Berlioz, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Derek Paravicini, Robert Wyatt, and many blind, black musicians such as blues performers Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, and the Reverend Gary Davis, as well as Art Tatum, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, who sponsored the event, said Disability History Month allowed people to hear about the “hidden history” of disabled people that is never heard in the mainstream media.

He said: “It’s vitally important that we celebrate it, but at the same time it’s important to recognize the reality of the world as it now is.”

He pointed to the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which concluded two years ago that the government was guilty of grave and systematic violations of the rights of disabled people in the UK.

He said: “I believe the systematic abuse of human rights is also denying people the opportunity of being able to celebrate their cultures.”

And he said the nature of the curriculum and the pressure on school funding were depriving children of the ability to learn instruments or to take part in dance or drama.

He said it was difficult enough for some of the disabled musicians highlighted during the event to demonstrate their talent but it was now becoming even harder for disabled young people to follow in their footsteps.

He said: “I think we are actually going backwards at the moment. If you see what is happening on the ground, in community after community, in school after school, group after group that have lost their funding… it is an absolute scandal.

“So as well as celebrating the achievement I think we have to be straight with people as well and expose what’s actually happening.

“This is not a party political point, it’s a point about civilized behavior. I think we are going backwards rather than forwards.”

He said there was a need to “get bloody angry”.

McDonnell added: “We should not, in the fifth largest economy in the world, allow disabled people to be treated in this way.

“That anger should motivate us into further action.”

The event included highly-praised live performances from two disabled artists.

Tinuke Jonah performed her first single, Girls Like Me*, which is due to be released tomorrow (Friday), and which she said described how she had realised at the age of 18 that she no longer needed to apologise for her albinism.

John Kelly, playing the Kellycaster, an adapted guitar he created with the music, disability and technology charity Drake Music, sung two rights anthems.

The Kellycaster uses an electric guitar as an interface for computer software, allowing him to play both chords and notes.

Kelly said his guitar helped fight oppression, and he added: “We are fighting louder than ever and our voices need to be heard louder than ever.”

He quoted the disabled poet Allan Sutherland, who told him that when he was young, he “didn’t have any footprints to follow” as a disabled person.

“He said that disability art is about our culture, it’s about who we are.

“It gives us that confidence to fight the injustices and oppression we experience.”

The event also watched a video of one of the songs recorded by Lizzie Emeh, who was the first UK artist with a learning difficulty to release an album of original songs, Loud and Proud, in 2009.

She said that her next EP, Meds, which will be released in February, will be about the medication she takes and how it affects her.

She said: “I hate the word ‘normal’. Do you know why I hate it?

“To me, normal is like a cycle on a washing-machine. Do I look like a washing-machine to you?”

The launch event also heard part of an interview between Rieser and Deaf solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, a longer version of which will be posted on the UKDHM website.

She described how taking off her hearing aids had allowed her to hear the drum she was playing through her body rather than her ears which “really allowed me to concentrate on the whole journey of that sound, the impact of the sound, the resonance of the sound.

“Taking care of how that sound ended was really important because before I was just bang, bang, bang…”

George McKay, professor of media studies at the University of East Anglia, and author of books on protest movements, jazz, and popular music and disability, pointed to the links between punk music and disability, through disabled musicians like Ian Dury and Ian Curtis.

He said the performance of Dury’s rights anthem Spasticus Autisticus at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics managed to “articulate an expression of difference and a celebration of difference”.

It was, he said, an “extraordinary punk moment”.

*The single will be available from tomorrow by searching for “Tinuke Jonah Girls Like Me” on all major music platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music and Google Play

UKDHM Supports the Day of Action on Wednesday November 21st Against Disability Discrimination in Education

October 25, 2018

UKDHM supports the Day of Action Against Disability Discrimination in Education. We are facing record cuts backs and quasi- privatisation in education which is leading to increasing disability discrimination angainst students and staff. This attack on disabled people’s rights is of historic proportions and is  moving disability equality and inclusion backwards. For more arguments on this see

Build for the Day of Action final 1

Build for the Day of Action

Against Disability Discrimination in the Education System       Wednesday 21st November 2018


There are over 2 million disabled students attending nursery, school, colleges and universities in England and at least 150,000 Disabled Education Staff (15%).

The promise of the Equality Act to promote Disability Equality and Protect from Disability Discrimination, provide Reasonable Adjustments and Access are increasingly being ignored throughout the Education System. Disabled staff and students are put at a substantial disadvantage by a climate of fear, league tables, ignorance and cutbacks forced by Government policies and underfunding of the sector. The UK Government has been heavily criticised by the United Nations for ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s rights including in education.

Budget cuts of around 9% in real terms are forcing schools to make difficult choices cutting support staff especially teaching assistants and mentors and leading to larger classes. This makes meeting the needs of students with SEND more difficult. Higher needs funding has not kept up with demand. Rigid policies in behaviour, admissions, exclusions and bullying are discriminating against disabled students. Tighter budgets and the breaking up of the maintained school sector are making it difficult for disabled staff to receive reasonable adjustments, especially staff acquiring impairments from high levels of workload stress and harassment. This leads to wasteful and discriminatory dismissal. A similar situation is occurring in both Further and Higher Education.

Staff, students and parents should plan their contribution on 21st November. These will include:-

  • Organising a school/college union/staff meeting or a lunchtime get together to discuss issues
  • Protesting for adjustments and accessible buildings
  • Showing a film on disabled people’s activism
  • Sending all members info on the Equality Act provisions
  • Lively lobbies…
  • Assemblies of staff and students to raise issues
  • Contacting parents to leaflet all parents/students after school
  • Using social media, including a Thunderclap e-message at 1.00 to Damien Hinds, Sec. of State
  • Putting pressure on Government/politicians to amend legislation and improve funding
  • Creating photo opportunities (such as holding placards/banners) for local press
  • Sending a Rep. to Parliamentary meeting at 5.00 that evening (ticket only from supporting organisations) contact by 9th November to RSVP.

Called for by disabled educationists, students and parents of disabled children at the Disability Summit (November 2017). Promoted by the University and College Union and supported by National Education Union, Alliance for Inclusive Education, Disability History Month, Disabled People Against the Cuts, National Union of Students and the TUC Disabled Workers Conference.

Article on UKDHM 2018 in The Teacher Magazine

September 19, 2018

UKDHM 2018 in The TeacherUKDHM 2018 in The Teacher

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Globally, Over 96% of Government Websites Hide Disabled Men and Women on Their Site

August 1, 2018

Over 96% of Government Websites Hide Disabled Men and Women on Their Site

Over 96% of Government Websites Hide Disabled Men and Women on Their Site

TLDR: Disabled people are almost non-existent on government and stock-photos websites, and when they are represented, they are not represented as whole individuals, but are only showed for their disability.

We crawled the internet and looked at more than 500 government websites from around the globe and what we found was shocking! While around 50% do show physically disabled people in images, only less than 4% have them on non-health and wellness related pages. Governments aren’t the only ones at fault here. Stock photo websites, like Shutterstock, do not tag disabled people as actual people, but only for their disability.

We call on governmental and stock photos websites to include disabled people and start treating as whole individuals, with varied lives and interests, and no to focus only on their disability.

* * * *

Disability is far from the taboo it was in previous centuries. Today, this valued section of society is afforded the same rights and concern as those who are physically able. However, when it comes to representation, the disabled community is still severely overlooked, and more often than not, all that is focused on is their disability. While they are “valued,” by focusing only on their disability, we hinder their full integration into society. Nowhere is this more prevalent than online; even on government websites – organizations responsible for ensuring equality – there is a significant lack of disabled people.

To explore this phenomenon, we researched over 500 government websites from all corners of the map. Our investigation unveiled that a majority of the websites tested had no photos of the disabled at all within its online pages. In many countries, this means that disabled citizens remain completely unacknowledged by their governing state. These people, who contribute to society and should enjoy the same human rights, deserve to be better represented. In a world that strives for equality, the disabled still suffer from a systemic prejudice that remains overlooked by most – which brings us on to a more worrying figure:

Less than 4% Showed Disabled People on Non-Medical Pages

Furthering our investigation, we also broke down where on the website disabled people appeared. Unfortunately, for the majority of the examples, they existed on health and medical pages, which once again pigeonholes the disabled and shuns them from complete social acceptance. The discovery that less than 4% of the pictures existed on non-medical pages was shocking in some ways, but you just have to browse a few sites to be faced with the reality of the situation.

In other words, as far as government websites are concerned, disabled people exist only to further push medical conditions and concerns.

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Over 96% of Government Websites Hide Disabled Men and Women on Their Site

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Out of the 502 websites we explored, only a mere 24 showed photos of disabled people on non-medical pages. However, even these instances came with some notable issues. None of those found were on the website homepageIn fact, most existed in blog posts discussing a specific organization or person. For example, some Brazilian websites did include articles about the Paralympics. However, aside from pages about the Paralympics, there were no mentions or images of disabled individuals on the website. Even this shows the tendency to shun people with a disability by separating them into a different echelon of society.

The Global Spread of This Exclusion Crisis

Glancing at these figures, you may assume it’s countries with lower economic status and reduced human rights that are guilty of this online prejudice against the disabled. However, the spread of the results tells a different story. No pattern exists that determines why the representation of the disabled is globally so low.
Those who do boast some inclusion include:

  • Superpowers such as Russia and the USA
  • South American countries: Chile, Brazil, and Argentina
  • Japan, Myanmar, India, Malaysia, and Hong Kong in Asia
  • Canada and Australia.

However, as we explored numerous government departments for each place, it’s also important to note that no country showed ubiquitous inclusion. Though the US fared well on some sites, an alarming amount of official state websites included no photos of disabled citizens at all. The following were all guilty of marginalization: Texas, Alabama, Virginia, Michigan, Utah and many more. Other offenders included the Whitehouse website, plus Australia’s ‘’ domain and business website.

Perhaps more worryingly, numerous countries failed to provide any representation on their official government site – including Taiwan, Slovakia, and even France. Considering some of these examples are members of the EU, this oversight is indefensible.

Metrics VS Morality

After establishing the reality of this problem, the next step is that we must ask ‘why?’ Why is this clear exclusion of a vast segment of society occurring? Are governments acting out of sheer prejudice, or is there a more nuanced explanation? The answer may lie in marketing. State-run websites – like any websites – are powered by metrics. Webmasters tirelessly review stats to ensure their domain is reaching as many people as possible. Herein lies the potential problem when it comes to representation.

Reason #1: Catering to the Majority

It’s true that most countries have what can be described as a ‘social norm’ – a stereotyped idea of how the average citizen looks. When creating content that aims to resonate with a wide audience, it’s sensible to aim for this social majority. Whether this refers to race, hair color, size or – as in this case – abilities and disabilities, it’s a common problem that can quickly isolate those in minority groups.

Reason #2: Fewer Conversions

Somewhat similarly, disabled individuals could be left out of website photos thanks to the domain review process. If government organizations perform A/B tests on their site, it may be the case that images of disabled individuals encourage fewer conversions and, therefore, reduce the perceived success of the web page.However, local authorities have a responsibility to their citizens. Eradicating representation for a large chunk of society is an inexcusable trade for improved website metrics.

Reason #3: Supply & Demand

Governments globally have a responsibility to affect the public narrative. Arguing that there is no demand for better representation in images is superfluous, as it’s these decisions that dictate what society finds acceptable. Normalizing the use of diverse photographs, including individuals from all walks of life, is the only way to create an expectation for inclusion. Right now, we are so used to seeing a narrow representation on state websites that users aren’t even aware of the problem. The aim should be to create a demand for equal representation, not to bend to the systemic prejudices already in place.

Read here how to make your website more disability-friendly

The Role of Stock Photo Websites

While governments have a responsibility to vet their websites for this problem properly, the fault doesn’t lie entirely with them. Most photos online come from stock photo sites such as Shutterstock. These domains offer royalty-free images that companies can use without fear of copyright infringement. The search features on these sites unintentionally dictate the aesthetics of most of the web. If pictures of disabled people don’t exist or aren’t tagged under the right keywords, then content creators won’t use them on their web pages.

To test this theory, we searched a variety of different keywords – including ‘happy person,’ ‘person smiling,’ and ‘happy face.’ None of these popular tags featured photos of disabled individuals.

Despite scrolling through numerous pages, we were unable to unearth any examples. If you look at these stock photos, an idea emerges – only able-bodied people can be happy, and there is no such thing as a “happy disabled person.”

However, a quick search of  ‘person in wheelchair’ revealed that plenty of images of happy disabled people do exist – so what’s the problem?

A quick review of the tags along the bottom quickly highlights the issue.

Despite the fact this woman is happy and smiling, the keywords linked to the photo revolve solely around her disability and age. Because of this, the picture won’t ever show up in general searches and is unlikely to be used on non-medical web pages.

She only exists as a medical condition. She’s only an older, disabled woman…an invalid even according to these tags!

To further flesh this out, we wanted to do a test. We took eight popular stock photo sites and typed in “happy people.” We wanted to see how long it took for us to get to a picture of a happy disabled person.

* Please note, if nothing was found past page 5, we stopped looking. No one really looks past page 5.

  1. Shutterstock: No
  2. Deposit Photos: No
  3. Stock Unlimited: No
  4. iStock: pg. 5 (1 image)
  5. Adobe Stock: No
  6. Big Stock: No
  7. Pexels: No
  8. Getty: No

*We’d like to note that for a majority of these photo stock websites, we saw images people of all ages, gender, religion, and races being represented. We even saw images of happy pets!

*While you cannot always tell from an image if a person has a disability, for example – hearing impaired, there are many images where it is possible to differenciate between an able-bodied person and a non. It is the government’s job to have images that feature disabled people. This will also help the small boy who is hearing impared feel that they are being included because there IS someone with a disability featured, even if it isn’t their own.

If we’re ever going to achieve equality online, resource catalogs like Shutterstock have just as much responsibility for changing the current prejudiced status quo.

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We urge all photo stock services to ensure disabled people are labeled properly and fairly. If they are happy, make sure to label them as such!

Government Websites Have a Responsibility to Promote Inclusion: A Guide

The statistics regarding representation of the disabled on government websites are worrying, but the real issue is the scope of the problem. While liberal first-world countries still fail to provide visibility for disabled citizens, little hope exists in creating a universal solution. Ableism is rife in society, and while government organizations purport it, this unfair prejudice will never change.
It’s easy to cast aside these issues a meaningless, but it’s undeniable that media has an incredible effect on how we see the world. Shunning valuable factors of society from these outlets is equally as destructive as excluding them in the real world. We have a responsibility to ensure disabled people, and other minorities, are given the visibility they deserve.

Here’s what government websites need to do:

  1. Add an image that includes a person with a disability on the homepage or a heavily trafficked page.
  2. Do not just include people who are in a wheelchair, but also include the hearing impaired and blind.
  3. Maintain oversight to ensure men and women from all the different parts of the community are included.

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What Can You Do?

Let your local government know that this type of treatment will no longer be tolerated. In a world where we need to be inclusive of individuals from all walks of life, this can no longer continue.

  1. Share this article on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter – let other people know what is going on.
  2. If you have a website, include images of disabled people in NON-disability related stories, like what we did here.
  3. Add the following banner to your website with a link to the article

Together we can put pressure on governments and stock photo websites to stop this online discrimination from continuing.

Feel free to share and copy this post or parts of it to your site, blog, or social networks. All we ask is that you attribute it to us. We want to keep kids safe, and your help to spread the word is important.

Click here to share it on Facebook and Twitter

Liverpool The Blind School: Pioneering People and Places now open Jan 2018- April 2018

February 2, 2018

Esther Fox talks to a journalist with a cameraman in front of displays about the Blind School

The Blind School: Pioneering People and Places now open

Dear all,

The Blind School: Pioneering People and Places, has now opened at the Museum of Liverpool. This is the second of our three exhibitions about the lives of deaf and disabled people over 800 years.

The exhibition comes with an audio tour, which you can either download to your phone or tablet in the space (free wifi is available) or listen to at home. A guided tour through objects on display is accompanied by performed segments by actors bringing alive some of the people and issues from the School’s 200 year history.

Crafts, campaigning  – and strict rules

The exhibition begins by describing how a group a campaigners, many themselves blind, worked to create opportunities for poorer blind people, expanding their life options from ‘music or begging’. It looks at the growth of the School and the many crafts practised there, as well as the strict rules imposed on residents. Finally it looks at some 20th century life experiences, including evacuation to Wales during the Blitz.

Can you survive a shipwreck and found the School with Edward Rushton?

We have also developed a digital game to accompany the exhibition which you can play at the Museum of Liverpool or (shortly) on our website. Learn about School founder Edward Rushton’s early life history, and see if you can survive various perils and raise money to found the School.

The Museum of Liverpool ad for the new exhibition

Image of woman in red coat with her guide dog surrounded by copy advertising the blind school exhibition
Find out more about the exhibition here by clicking the picture.
Coming soon: V&A Architecture Gallery Display

Our third museum exhibition will be a display in the V&A’s Architecture Gallery, opening on 10th February. This looks at how building design has been shaped by the needs of deaf and disabled people – from medieval sites such as Maison Dieu to Maggie and Ken Davis’ 1970s house for independent living, to a recently designed house where one of the rooms moves between floors.

The exhibition is free.

Mike Oliver delivers a stinging rebuke to “parasitic” disability charities

December 2, 2017



One of the key figures in the disabled people’s movement has come out of retirement to deliver a stinging rebuke to “parasitic” disability charities.

Professor Mike Oliver (pictured), the disabled academic who first defined the “social model of disability”, was speaking at an event hosted by the University of Kent last night (Wednesday), as part of UK Disability History Month.

The annual series of events was launched at a parliamentary event last week, and this year focuses on disability and art.

Those speaking at the launch included disabled comedian, activist and trainer Barbara Lisicki, who spoke about – and displayed – some of the tee-shirts designed and worn by members of the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN), and disabled artists Tanya Raabe-Webber and Tony Heaton.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell spoke of the importance of challenging stereotypes and how austerity had made it harder for disabled people to “fulfil their artistic ambitions and articulate their views about society” and how they face discrimination.

In his speech in Kent yesterday, Oliver warned of the risk that disabled people’s shared history was being “rewritten” by charities and politicians to “suit their own interests and agendas”.

He mentioned Scope, and a series of films it produced in 2015 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which failed to point out that, in its earlier incarnation as The Spastics Society, it had been “bitterly opposed to anti-discrimination legislation in the 1980s and only reluctantly came on board when it became obvious that such legislation was inevitable”.

He also referred to former Tory leader William Hague, who told the BBC that he regarded the DDA as one of his finest achievements, when in reality he had “turned the legislation into a pale shadow of what it should have been”.

Oliver was heavily critical of “the big disability charities”, which he said had “proved predictably useless at defending the living standards and lifestyles of disabled people” from the government’s “vicious attacks, while continuing to do very well for themselves”.

He referred to the phrase “parasite people”, once used by the disabled activist Paul Hunt to describe those “who furthered their own careers on the backs of the struggles of disabled people to lead ordinary lives”.

Oliver said that these charities need disabled people “to be dependent and tragic, otherwise there is no justification for their existence”.

He told Disability News Service (DNS) before delivering the lecture that many of the big charities (although he was not attacking the individuals who work for them) – including Leonard Cheshire Disability, RNIB, Scope and others – were “parasitic on the lives of disabled people, and their attempts to reposition themselves as defenders of disability rights are an attempt to disguise this”.

He also included Disability Rights UK (DR UK), despite it being a user-led disabled people’s organisation, and he told DNS that one of its representatives recently spoke publicly “on how important it was to write letters to our MPs and government, as if (Oliver said) that hasn’t been happening for many years without changing much”.

He added: “If that’s their idea of political activism then yes, they should be included in my criticism, even if they are user-led.”

Philip Connolly, DR UK’s policy and development manager, said it was him who Oliver had heard speak at the UK premiere of the documentary film Defiant Lives.

He told DNS yesterday that he had “a long record myself in non-violent direct action so would never suggest that the only legitimate way of obtaining change is letter writing”.

He said: “Mike Oliver has never to my knowledge been in touch with me or Disability Rights UK so is not in a good position to pass judgement on us.

“He would be welcome to get to know us, and our CEO Kamran Mallick is willing to meet with him.”

He added: “I wouldn’t criticise those engaged in non-violent protest or those who write letters either; when we win it’s usually because of both. I did say this at the cinema and no-one took issue with me there.”

Oliver also spoke in his speech of how the Paralympics and the Invictus Games, the sports event for disabled veterans created by Prince Harry, are used by the government as political cover.

He pointed out that “not all injured ex-service men and women can or want to compete in elite sport and many who don’t live lives of deprivation, poverty and misery”, while the government is able to continue sending young people to “often illegal wars to get blown apart for their country”.

He told DNS: “The government among others are using disability sport to deny the reality of many disabled people’s lives and disguising the reality of their failure to provide proper medical and rehabilitation support for many servicemen and women injured in wars that are sometimes illegal.”

But he made clear that he was not blaming the organisers of the games, and did not mention Prince Harry by name in the speech, and pointed out that his own rehabilitation from a spinal cord injury more than 50 years ago owed much to disability sport (he won table-tennis gold and bronze medals in the international Stoke Mandeville games that were a forerunner of the Paralympics).

Oliver also said in his speech that disabled people needed to be careful of rebranding disabled people’s history as a struggle for rights, when “it has always been much broader than that”.

He said: “Rights on their own are easily incorporated into the agendas of governments without requiring them to change very much at all.”

He highlighted the UK government’s “post truth” claim that it was a world leader in disability rights, after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities published a “damning report” in August in which it accused the government of “going backwards” on independent living.

And by positioning disabled people as “pathetic victims”, he said, the government had managed to launch “a massive attack on services and benefits for disabled people” while claiming that its “relentless assault on the living standards of disabled people is nothing of the kind but a heartfelt attempt to take public money away from scroungers and fraudsters and give it to the most severely disabled people who really need it”.

He concluded that disabled people needed to take responsibility themselves for “attacking the disabling barriers we face”.

He said: “What disability history teaches us is that we cannot rely on the bleeding hearts brigade and parasite people to do it for us.

“We have to do it for ourselves. We have to insist that our personal troubles are public issues that need to be resolved.”

Oliver also spoke about the divide that developed in the 1970s and 1980s between organisations controlled by disabled people – such as the Spinal Injuries Association and the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) – and “those that were about us but definitely not controlled by us”, such as Disability Alliance, which later merged with RADAR and the National Centre for Independent Living into DR UK.

He said his life had been changed by a UPIAS booklet, The Fundamental Principles Of Disability, published in 1976, which argued that “the root cause of our problems was the way society was organised and the disabling barriers we faced”.

This meant, he said, that he “no longer had to accept full responsibility for my impairment” and “now understood that my personal troubles were also public issues”, an insight that led him to develop the social model of disability.

He also spoke last night (Wednesday) about the part played by the University of Kent in developing the disabled people’s movement.

Oliver studied sociology and social anthropology at the university in the early 1970s, at a time when it was physically “unwelcoming” to a wheelchair-user, in contrast to the attitude of the staff and fellow students in the “generous times ushered in by the economic and cultural revolutions of the 1960s”.

He stayed on after his degree to complete his PhD, and to teach a masters course for professionals working with disabled people, which is believed to be the first postgraduate course in “what later became known as disability studies”.

At the time, he said, most writing on disability “was dominated by assumptions that disability was a medical problem and the focus was on illness and impairment”, and any personal focus was on disabled people as “tragic victims”, with the stereotype reinforced in popular culture through the “triumph over tragedy” genre.

He had wanted his masters course to challenge the idea that professionals working with disabled clients should focus solely on their “personal troubles and not how and why they were linked to public issues”.

Oliver’s first book, Social Work With Disabled People, published in 1983, introduced the social model of disability to a wider audience, and within five years, he said, “had become the mantra for many disabled people’s organisations and was beginning to make its way into official government documents”.

St Pauls’s Byatt Road, Stoke on Trent – Art Competition Winners

November 28, 2017

St Paul’s remove the barriers to disability through art

 The competition was idea of Nursery Teacher Mrs Turton who was finding out about the UK Disability History Month which started yesterday. She held a gallery to display the art work entered for the competition in which the children were asked to create art which promoted disability, re-create art which was created by an artist with a disability, or create art with something other than their hands.

 There were nearly 60 entries, plus other entries from parents and families.  Nicky Finney Head Teacher said “ I am really impressed with the thought and talent that has gone into producing these fantastic pieces of art.  The children have really challenged themselves and have involved their whole families in creating entries for this competition.  I am very proud of the children for producing such high quality work for such an important issue. I would like to pass on special thanks to Mrs Turton who has created this opportunity for the children to showcase their talents”

 The UK Disability History Month Website ( provided the information relating to the month and stated that: We would like local museums, libraries, councils, schools and colleges, work places and trade unions to put on exhibitions, talks and events during November/December 2017. So we thought we would start planning our event! The website asked us to examine artists who have been disabled, artists who have featured disabled people through a social model lens but also to understand the attitudes existing at different times over history towards disabled people through their portrayal in Art.  The winners of our competition were ‘Laila Wasim and Macy Tolley’ and ‘Violet Maskery and her mum Rebecca’. The parent only winner is Rebecca Buglass.

More information  Rebecca Winwood ,Byatt’s Grove, Longton, Stoke on Trent ST3 artIMG_4488 artIMG_4492 artIMG_4493 art (1)IMG_4494 artIMG_4495 artIMG_4508 artIMG_4510 artIMG_4511 art

Celebrating the artistic history of people with disabilities – Shakira Dyer

November 24, 2017

> Celebrating the artistic history of people with disabilities

Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell speaking at a DHM event in Portcullis House, Westminster

Shakira Dyer reports on Disability History Month 2017 and its focus on the arts

UK Disability History Month (DHM) has existed in the UK for seven years, but not many people know about it.

Running from 22nd November to 22 December, it is a month to increase awareness of disability and the struggle for disabled people to have equal rights in society.

Every year it has a different theme; this year it’s disability in the arts.

Recently I went to an official DHM event at Hamilton House in Euston. DHM creator, Richard Rieser explained how disabled people had been represented in the arts in the past, as well as how disabled artists represent themselves today.

Shockingly, in the past many artists depicted the disabled as people to be laughed at. This was parodied in LS Lowry’s ‘The Cripple’, a social commentary on how able-bodied people viewed disabled people.

The Cripples, LS Lowry, 1949

Some famous artists in the past were actually disabled or had a mental health issue themselves, yet we don’t think of them in this way today, as their impairments were sometimes hidden.

For example, Leonardo da Vinci is thought to have had Asperger’s syndrome, as he was very dedicated to his work but found socializing difficult.

Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh are known to have experienced depression. Picasso expressed this in his artistic ‘Blue Period’ where he used darker colours and blue tones.

The Blind Man’s Meal, Pablo Picasso, 1903, courtesy of Gandalf’s Gallery

Today, more artists and singers are opening up about their disability or mental health issue. For example James Arthur and Lady Gaga, among others.

At the DHM event, disabled artists such as Tony Heaton and Tanya Raabe-Webber displayed their art and explained how they explored themes of inclusion and acceptance.

Tony Heaton is a photographer and sculptor, creating art that shows both psychical and social barriers towards disabled people, particularly wheelchair users like himself.

One of his creations, ‘Gold Lamé’ suspends a golden car from the beams of a museum. In the 1970s people with mobility impairments were given a ‘special car’, known as an Invacar, because there was an assumption the drivers were ‘invalid’.

On his website, Tony says there was only extra space in the car for a folded wheelchair. “The single seat meant that you travelled alone, the assumption had to be that you had no friends, family, lovers.”

At the DHM event, disabled artists such as Tony Heaton and Tanya Raabe-Webber displayed their art

Tanya Raabe-Webber creates portraits of people, both disabled and non-disabled, in a caricature style. She explores the human condition using both traditional painting and drawing, as well as technology such as iPads. Many of her portraits have been featured in the National Art Gallery.

Another artist, painter and model Alison Lapper was a presenter in BBC documentary ‘No Body’s Perfect’. Alison has no arms due to phocomelia, yet she shows this doesn’t stop her from being beautiful. The documentary aims to convince four camera-shy young people, to gain the confidence to be photographed.

Disability rights activist Barbra Lisicki campaigned with the civil rights group DAN (the Direct Action Network) for accessible areas on the buses and other essential rights.

She explained that DAN’s t-shirts had been effective in getting people to notice their campaigns. Slogans such as as ‘P*ss on Pity’ challenged the stereotypical view of disabled people as an object of charity, while the slogan ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ challenged the idea that disabled people had no say in charities representing them.

The group marched in protest and even chained themselves to buses to help raise awareness and change the law.

Although Barbra and others were arrested for their ‘civil disobedience’, the protests contributed to the creation of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, which made it illegal to discriminate based on disability.

You can read this BBC article about DAN’s campaigns.

At the event, we discussed how schools, colleges and universities could be taught about disability history. Schools could learn about famous disabled people who’ve made it in the arts (and other areas), who challenge negative perceptions of disability. The focus however should be on their artworks and their achievements, not just their disability.

What I think 
The event made me think about how the histories of so-called ‘minorities’ in society can be ‘lost’ or ‘swept under the carpet’ if they aren’t picked up by the mainstream, so that people on the outside and newer generations know what happened.

Hopefully the history of disability rights and art will not be lost. Online archives such as NDACA and ShapeArts are now being set up to preserve art by disabled artists for generations to come.

There needs to be more discussion of what is happening today to protect the rights of people with a disability or mental health issue, and ensure that we are no longer pushed aside. Although things are changing, disabled people still face barriers and social stigma imposed by society.

As inspiring as the speakers were at the DHM event, they came from the older generation. I’d like it if people younger people also spoke about their experiences.

For this year’s DHM, I’m working with a team of other disabled students at my university, King’s College London, to help launch events and raise awareness.

I’m also creating a website, Access The Arts, which will feature disabled artists from many different ages and backgrounds, showcasing their art and suggesting how they might be helping to change attitudes.

Shakira DyerOther articles by Shakira Dyer

Shakira is a visually-impaired writer and student at Kings College London, living in Tottenham. Loving history, literature and especially the German language, she wants to use all of these interests in a career someday. As a member of the Haringey Youth Council, Shakira represents the voice of young people in the borough, at local meetings and events.
Exposure is an award-winning youth communications charity giving young people in north London a voice. Please support us to continue our work. Thank you.


Disabled People should vote Yes to Stay in Europe

March 21, 2016

Disabled People should vote Yes to Stay in Europe

As UK Disability Movement Rep on the European Disability Forum from 2004 to 2012 I fully endorse the position taken by Debbie Jolly and Richard Howitt. Disabled people in the UK are much better off in the EU and we should be playing a more active part in mobilising the 10 million disabled voters to vote to stay.

Let us learn the lessons of the history we have lived through. There is no doubt that we have gained a great deal in legislation on employment, transport, training, accessibility and Social Funds for training. The EU is enthusiastic about taking disabled people’s rights forward. In the UK successive governments—Labour, Coalition and Tory—have been doing the least possible to improve our position and indeed making it worse. Having EU legislation and directives as a fall back is in this situation is most important in safeguarding our rights. Because of the EU legislation:

  • Our buses, trains, stations, ferries, airports and air flights are accessible;
  • We have equal rights in employment and all employers have to make reasonable adjustments(various UK Government wanted to limit this to those who employ over 20;
  • The Blue Badge parking and access requirements operate throughout the EU;
  • Our Human Rights are supported and enhanced with institutions and hate crime opposed.

Gove, Johnson and IDS are all neo-conservative free marketeers who which to be rid of ‘red tape’ such as health and safety legislation and employment rights in a race to the bottom for ordinary people while they and their cronies get richer. Staying in Europe and building united opposition to this conception is the best thing for disabled people and working people.

We should not be seduced by xenophobic or racist ideas against immigration. We, ourselves, have and are subject to such prejudice and hate crime and should to know better.

Equally while those on the left arguing for exit claim the EU as a capitalist club- So the UK isn’t!!!

We must stay in Europe and fashion an alternative. The cross European Movement against austerity needs to campaign for a minimum standard of living for all citizens. The Disability Movement in all its fragments could start by unifying and turning outwards into Europe to work with the representatives of 80 million disabled people across Europe. The EU have ratified the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons ( without reservation, unlike the UK who put up 4 reservations) and has an active plan for its implementation including new legislation on Accessibility.

Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion and Coordinator UK Disability History Month

Where next for inclusion? – from rhetoric to rights 15 April 2016 UCL Institute of Education

February 24, 2016

What next for inclusion flyer 15 April 2016 V4

World of Inclusion wins Zero Project Award for Innovative Practice

February 19, 2016

World of Inclusion received an award in Vienna at the Zero Conference on Inclusive Education and ICT on 10th February 2016.
All the materials developed for the workshops and six films of the workshops are available in the Resources section of this web site

BBC Two living history.Anyone interested in taking part

February 15, 2016

UKDHM has been approached to see if anyone would like to take part in a living history programme shooting at the end of March for up to 3 weeks. They very much want disabled people to be in the programme and it will mean living in role for 2- 3 weeks. See below
So as I was saying, I’m working on a new BBC ‘living-history’ series which will recreate the Victorian slums of Britain and is looking for people (UK-wide) to become part of the community. We want to invite people with disabilities to come forward who are interested in history and up for the challenge. Please see the press release from the BBC:

I work for a production company called Wall to Wall Media (, which has made programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC One), and popular living history series such as Back In Time For Dinner (BBC Two) and Victorian Bakers (BBC Two).

We have been commissioned to make this landmark series for BBC Two over the Easter period 2016 that will recreate the Victorian East End of London and populate it with families, couples and adult siblings from all backgrounds and from all over the UK who are interested in experiencing the lives of the Victorian poor, or who currently live in Britain’s industrial cities. They may even have ancestors who lived in the slums of these major cities. The aim will be to live, work and make ends meet exactly as the Victorian poor would have done. The people selected will be expected to find work, master old trades and sell their wares in order to put food on the table and to make the weekly rent. We want to explore the period before the birth of the Welfare State and how the plight of the Victorian poor changed our nation for the better. We would like to hear from adults (they must be aged 18+). from all backgrounds who have different stories to tell about THEIR lives today. There was such a diverse mix of people who ended up in the Victorian slum community and we would like this mix of people to be truly represented in the people we select to take part – this will also enable us to highlight a range of issues at the time.

People who might be interested can contact us to find out more at / 020 7241 9228 or read more at

We can assure you that we take our duty of care to our contributors very seriously and there will be many talks with the team here before anyone is asked to take part. We are confident that it will be a challenging but truly fascinating and unique experience for everyone involved.

I would be happy to answer any questions on 0207 241 9228.

Kind regards,


Many thanks,

Harry Harris

Successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.

November 24, 2015

Very successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell gave an audience of TV and film makers, actors and disabled people a strong message of support at the British Film Institute yesterday evening the 19th Nov 2015.
He said that the ‘New politics’ that Jeremy Corbyn and he were developing was based was based on treating others the way you wanted to be treated. In the past the Labour Party had focused on improving bread and butter issues for disabled people and that they had not understood that portrayal and the way it influences attitudes was more fundamental as it was this that led to discrimination. That now we will need to look at specific mechanisms for change this may include quotas and training to change portrayal and representation of disabled people in the media. There was now an open door to policy making in the Labour Party that there had not been before. (See for the speech 17.30 to 26.00 mins).
John gave three political commitments:-
• The Labour Party will set up a policy dialogue with the organisations and individuals that disabled people think can make a constructive contribution on this issue. You need to advise us who should be round the table.
• We will go through policy making of the Labour Party nd ensure the issue of portrayal and representation of disability is inserted.
• If he had anything to do with it there would be a Manifesto commitment on representation as a foundation stone of how people perceive disabled people. We missed this out in the past.
Lastly, there was a campaigning role for all of us to bring attention to these issues and achieve solutions.
Philipa Harvey, President of the National Union of Teachers, conveyed the support of the union for the work of Disability History Month and said how the union was informing teachers of the need to raise the history of disabled people with children. Philipa also pointed out that a recent survey the Union had conducted showed many disabled teachers were being discriminated.
Elenor Lisney of Sisters of Frida talked about how images of disabled women on the screen had influenced her when growing up.
Richard Rieser, Coordinator of the UK Disability History Month talked about historically rooted stereotypes of disabled people based on myth, magic, superstition, religion and pseudo science that shape attitudes and are continually recycled. While there has been some isolated examples of good representation where we are just presented as ordinary; too often a new stereotype of bringing disability into narratives is considered as a ‘prosthetic’ to a weak storyline. There were more disabled actors and film makers but they were not being used anywhere near enough in broadcast media and film.

Richard then reported on the main conclusions of the Day conference. There should be tapered quotas to grow from 10 to 20% as the pool of talent grows. There needs to be more targeted training and work experience. Cuts in Arts subjects in schools and colleges should be reversed to develop the talent pool. All relevant union Equity, BECTU, The Writers Guild and Musicians Union should be pressured to do much more to gave portrayal of disabled people in the media. Acting for Change should be supported. Those who own and manage at a top level the broadcast media and film making must be approached and pressured to do more.
Earlier the Day Conference heard an analysis by Richard Rieser (Coordinator of UKDHM) of Image Portrayal using 34 film clips. This was followed by three panels of actors, writers and producers/directors/casting directors heard very interesting presentations and discussion . Participants included actors Sam West, Danny Sapani, Jaye Griffiths Liz Carr and Lisa Hammond; writers Laura Wade , Allen Sutherland , Rahila Gupta and Micheline Mason, Produces Ewan Marshall, Colin Rodgers, Ju Gosling, Paul Darke, Shirani Sabratnam, Colin Rodgers ; Director Ben Anthony and Casting Director Ros Hubbard.
There was general agreement that thought there was more portrayal of disabled people it was still far too little, often not realistic and stereotyped. There were disabled actors, writers and film makers out there but they were finding it very difficult to be b included due to many barriers. Currently BBC portrayal is 1.2% of the time whilst over 20 % of the population count as disabled people. The negativity and lack of realistic portrayal encourages negative attitudes, bullying and hate crime which is two or three times the level for other minority groups.
The following were agreed as a way forward
• Quotas – 20% should be disabled people. These to be tapered to keep up with the skill base from 10 to 20%

• More training – on and off screen

• Training live presenters with disabilities (Ade had 6 months extra training)

• Champion alternative voices – real life stories (challenge people to see things differently)Acting for Change

• Hold to account those who run and control the media – particularly publicly funded bodies

• UNCRPD – Article 8 implemented

• More support/funding for disability art events, especially at community level

• Need programmes which put forward the view of the disability lobby

• Pressure on the unions to be more proactive (e.g. Musicians Union, Writers Guild, BECTU, Equity, NUJ)

• Something like Turner Classic Movies (US) which showcase films with disabled characters in them – something for Film 4 and BBC to consider?

• Utilize new technologies (internet) to create pro-disabled media – there are businesses seeking to support new alternative platforms (training/experience both off and on camera)

• A new take on access is needed

• If films are state funded then they must be fully accessible to all.

• Challenge audiences to challenge their thinking e.g. Scope End the Awkward Campaign

• Question why ordinary supporting roles are not given disabled people.

For more information contact Richard Rieser UKDHM Coordinator Mobile 07715420727
e.mail or

For Review from Disability Arts on Line of the Day go to

Very successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.

November 20, 2015

Very successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell gave an audience of TV and film makers, actors and disabled people a strong message of support at the British Film Institute yesterday evening the 19th Nov 2015.
He said that the ‘New politics’ that Jeremy Corbyn and he were developing was based was based on treating others the way you wanted to be treated. In the past the Labour Party had focussed on improving bread and butter issues for disabled people and that they had not understood that portrayal and the way it influences attitudes was more fundamental as it was this that led to discrimination. That now we will need to look at specific mechanisms for change this may include quotas and training to change portrayal and representation of disabled people in the media. There was now an open door to policy making in the Labour Party that there had not been before. (See YouTube for the speech 17.30 to 26.00 mins).

John gave three political commitments:-

  • The Labour Party will set up a policy dialogue with the organisations and individuals that disabled people think can make a constructive contribution on this issue. You need to advise us who should be round the table.
  • We will go through policy making of the Labour Party nd ensure the issue of portrayal and representation of disability is inserted.
  • If he had anything to do with it there would be a Manifesto commitment on representation as a foundation stone of how people perceive disabled people. We missed this out in the past.

Lastly, there was a campaigning role for all of us to bring attention to these issues and achieve solutions.

Philipa Harvey, President of the National Union of Teachers, conveyed the support of the union for the work of Disability History Month and said how the union was informing teachers of the need to raise the history of disabled people with children. Philipa also pointed out that a recent survey the Union had conducted showed many disabled teachers were being discriminated.

Elenor Lisney of Sisters of Frida talked about how images of disabled women on the screen had influenced her when growing up.

Richard Rieser, Coordinator of the UK Disability History Month talked about historically rooted stereotypes of disabled people based on myth, magic, superstition, religion and pseudo science that shape attitudes and are continually recycled. While there has been some isolated examples of good representation where we are just presented as ordinary; too often a new stereotype of bringing disability into narratives is considered as a ‘prosthetic’ to a weak storyline. There were more disabled actors and film makers but they were not being used anywhere near enough in broadcast media and film.
Richard then reported on the main conclusions of the Day conference. There should be tapered quotas to grow from 10 to 20% as the pool of talent grows. There needs to be more targeted training and work experience. Cuts in Arts subjects in schools and colleges should be reversed to develop the talent pool. All relevant union Equity, BECTU, The Writers Guild and Musicians Union should be pressured to do much more to gave portrayal of disabled people in the media. Acting for Change should be supported. Those who own and manage at a top level the broadcast media and film making must be approached and pressured to do more.

Why disability history matters

November 12, 2015

An article by Simon Jarrett.


It is Disability History Month, and some people with disabilities might be forgiven for asking ‘Who cares? As hard-won rights and benefits come under unprecedented challenge from austerity measures, the disabled community faces many battles.

Yet history is not as irrelevant as it may first appear. To understand where you are, it is often very helpful to know where you have come from. A sense of history, a reclaiming of the past, has been essential in many struggles for recognition and acceptance. The present has an unnerving habit of obliterating from memory those it wishes to remain invisible, or at the bottom of the pile. Claiming an historical identity, rejecting that invisibility, was an important part of the women’s liberation movement, gay rights campaigns and movements against colonial and racial oppression. It is now playing a similar role in the disability equality movement.

Disability history is often called a hidden history. It is nothing of the sort. People with disabilities gaze out from the past all the time. However, society tends to gaze back straight past them without noticing – a phenomenon which many people with disabilities may recognise.

In the middle ages thousands were disabled by the scourge of leprosy. Alongside them lived many more thousands of ‘creples’ ‘blynde’ and ‘deaff’, either disabled from birth or though accident or illness. There were constant debates about what this meant. Was it a punishment from God for sin, or did suffering on earth mean that people with disabilities were closer to God than the rest, and therefore superior? Some were cared for by monks and nuns, the small beginnings of hospital-type provision, but most lived in, and were very much a part of, their families and communities.  The eighteenth century saw the building of the first great hospitals which cared for some ‘maimed’ war veterans and those who were both destitute and disabled.

Yet it was not until the nineteenth century that institutional provision came to be seen as the norm for those deemed disabled, with a massive building programme of segregated asylums, workhouses and other institutions. For the first time the life of the disabled person was framed as a life best lived away from communities and families, under medical supervision. Disabled people were no longer 

understood as people who lived and worked, (yes, worked), in society. The great wars of the twentieth century massively increased disability levels, bringing about radical advances in assistive technologies, rehabilitation, mobility, environmental adaptations and public attitudes. After the Second World War disability rights campaigns, some led by war veterans, led eventually to the demise of long stay institutional care and the ‘new’ idea of care in the community.

So why does this matter? It matters because we need to understand that today’s ‘correct thinking’ about disability is just as much a function of contemporary beliefs and opinions as were ideas of sin and holiness in the middle ages. Professionals should understand that the idea of care in the community is not a new idea they have dreamed up – it is exclusion that has been the historical exception. The asylum movement only occupied 140 years of a thousand years of history. For as long as society has existed, people with disabilities have been a part of it, shaping and influencing, just as society has shaped and influenced their lives. To understand that, in schools, in workplaces and in government, is to begin to understand that exclusion is not inevitable, inclusion is not some vague theoretical aspiration.

Disability history is also riveting history. Disability History Month takes place from 22 November to 22 December 2015. Get along to a Disability History Month event if you can.Click here for more information.

Simon Jarrett is arts editor of Community Living magazine and is researching the history of ‘idiocy’, with a Wellcome Trust scholarship, at Birkbeck, University of London.He is the author of Disability in Time and Place, an Historic England web resource. Illustrations in this article are reproduced with permission from Historic England.  

Simon will be speaking at a Disability History Month event ‘Disability and impairment: a technological fix’ at London Metropolitan Archives on Friday 27 November, where he will be talking about impairment and mobility in the 18thcentury. 

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995: The campaign for civil rights

November 6, 2015

From Scope:

November 2015 marks the twentieth anniversary since the Disability Discrimination Act became law in Britain. The law improved the lives of many disabled people and put anti-discrimination law on the statute book for disabled people.

However, it was the civil rights campaigners and activists who fought tirelessly to change the law that made this a remarkable moment in disability history.

We are marking this anniversary with a whole host of content on our website. Visit to find out more.

Photos courtesy of Baroness Campbell and Rachel Hurst.

Archive footage courtesy of ITN.

See  For an activist view that puts this celebration in A VRY DIFFERENT LIGHT.

What not to do #EndTheAwkward

In this series of online film shorts for Scope’s #EndTheAwkward campaign, presenter and Scope Ambassador Alex Brooker reacts to hidden camera set-ups exposing how awkward we are around disability. This film was produced in partnership with Channel 4.

Scope End the Awkward Campaign

At Scope we have a vision of a world where disabled people are equal and able to live independent lives.

Changing attitudes is a significant part of securing that vision. We know that two- thirds of people feel awkward around disabled people. The problem is even more prominent amongst younger people in Britain.

These negative attitudes can have a direct impact on a disabled person’s chances of making friends, getting a job or securing the services they need. When people don’t know a disabled person they can all too often believe lazy, offensive and incorrect stereotypes.

That’s why we’re passionate about changing public attitudes. But this is just one way we work to make the world a better place for disabled people.

Love and Disability

From the panel discussion at BFI, 27th November 2015.

Love and Disability – Event text

Interview about deaf character in BBC Dr Who played by deaf actress Sophie Stone

Interview about deaf character in Dr Who played by deaf actress Sophie Stone

In this 7 minute preview clip made by the BBC’s See Hear programme (and shown at the weekend as part of the See Hear Sign Language Festival), you can go behind the scenes and watch Deaf actress Sophie Stone performs recording an upcoming episode of Doctor Who.

Text of interview

Shifting Perceptions on TV – BFI

September 17, 2015

Love & Disability – Shifting Perceptions on TV

NFT 3 BFI South Bank Book online at BFI or 020 7928 3232

18.15 start (90mins to include 15mins clips and 30mins Audience Questions) 19.45 Finish

Jack Thorne (Writer Cast-Offs)
Victoria Wright (actress and Campaigner)
Ade Rawcliffe (Channel 4 Creative Diversity Manager – TBC)
Nabil Shaban (Writer/Actor)
Alison Walsh the BBC Disability Lead.

Chair: Richard Rieser (UKDHM)

Limited Wheelchair places

UKDHM Day Conference – BFI

Day Conference – Portrayal of Disability in Mainstream Moving Image Media: Then and Now

BFI in partnership with UK Disability History Monthdownload

Join us for a day of discussion. Film clips, speakers, panels.
Focus on acting, writing, producing & directing.

Disabled and non-disabled practitioners:
Samuel West, Ben Anthony, Liz Carr, Paul Darke, Ju Gosling, Jaye Griffiths, Rahila Gupta, Ewan Marshall, Caglar Kimyoncu, Richard Rieser, Colin Rogers, Shirani Sabratnam, Allan Sutherland, Laura Wade, Danny Sapani.

The events will be signed.
Thurs 19 Nov 2015
Blue Room, BFI Southbank.

Tickets: BFI Box Office £10.00 (£3.00 concs), 020 7928 3232.


Followed by Launch of UKDHM 2015

Blue Room

Philippa Harvey (NUT President), Eleanor Lisney (Sisters of Frida), Sian Vesey, John McDonnell MP, Penny Pepper (Performer), Richard Rieser (UKDHM).

Reserve place for launch at or 0207 359 2855.

Places limited for both events

Accentuate win major Disability History Project

July 9, 2015

Press release – Delivery phase History of Place announcement FINAL

Interview with Johnny Crescendo

May 1, 2015

An interview by UKDHM.
The first of a series of disabled people who have made recent history.

UKDHM 2014 Day Conference

March 19, 2015

The UKDHM 2014 Day Conference was held at Student Central on Malett St on 6 December 2014.
Footage of all speakers is available below:

UKDHM Launch 2014

November 21, 2014

UKDHM 2014 was launched on 18th November, at Unite the Union

Videos of all the speakers can be found below:

Introduction from Chair Sean McGovern

Richard Rieser (UKDHM National Coordinator)

Mo Stewart (WRAF)
Read Mo Stewart’s speech here

Paula Peters (DPAC)

Diana Holland (Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union)

Katherine Araniello

Arthur Torrington (Windrush Foundation)

Questions from the floor,
with responses from Richard Rieser, Mo Stewart and Paula Peters

John McDonnell MP

See Sarah Ismail’s blog post here

Anti Bullying Week Supported by UKDHM

November 17, 2014

Picture7UKDHM Supports Anti Bullying Week 17th to 21st November 2014
UKDHM Supports Anti Bullying Week 17th to 21st November 2014
The focus of this year’s Anti Bullying Week is on disabled children and young people and those with SEN who experience the highest rates of bullying and harassment in our schools and colleges.
Resources for schools about challenging disablist language:
The use of verbal abuse as a form of bullying of disabled children and young people is widespread. This has a significant negative impact on self-esteem and achievement. To challenge it requires a consistent wholeschool approach involving staff, pupils, parents and carers. All members of the school community need to be equipped to always challenge and explain why such language is unacceptable.
ABA have created 10 top tips with World of Inclusion about how you can challenge disablist language in schools.
The ABA with UK Disability History Month have produced a resource for teachers .
Teacher resource – the history of disability harassment and bullying (classroom ideas)
We can stop bullying: worksheet for teachers
This resource was written by the Alliance for Inclusive Education as part of their How was school? series of worksheets. It was written to support Anti-Bullying Week and is endorsed by ABA. It explores disabled people experiences of being bullied when they were at school and gives classroom activity ideas.
We can stop bullying: worksheet for teachers
See UK Disability History Month for many more resources

6th December
UKDHM Day Conference, London

November 4, 2014

Day Conference Saturday 6th December 2014, 10am to 4pm
Room 3D, Students Central, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY
War and Impairment :The Social Consequences of Disablement

Neil Faulkner ‘Industrialised slaughter: how the world went mad in 1914’
Roddy Slorach ‘A Brief History of Disabled War Veterans’
Kate Macdonald ‘Seeing Disability in British First World War popular culture’
– Lunch –
Pieter Verstraete ‘Commemorating the disabled soldier – tales from the unknown’
Emmeline Burdett ‘The Portrayal of the Disabled Soldier in Wilfred Owen’s poem Disabled (1917)
Richard Rieser ‘The Social Impact of Impairment and War in the Majority World’
Chair Paula Peters (DPAC)

Each presentation will be followed by discussion.
Book your place at or

Fee £5 on door or £2 unwaged. Lunch Provided

Bio of speakers
Neil Faulkner
is a leading First World War archaeologist, a research fellow at Bristol University, and co-director of field projects in Britain, Jordan, and Slovenia. He works as a lecturer, writer, editor, and occasional broadcaster. An independent revolutionary socialist and activist, he is the author of ‘A Marxist History of the World: from Neanderthals to neoliberals’ and ‘No Glory: the real history of the First World War’.

Roddy Slorach first became involved with the disability movement in 1990 while still living in Glasgow. A longstanding socialist and trade union activist, he works in higher education and is a member of the Disabled Members Standing Committee with the University and Colleges Union. Roddy is currently writing a book on the history and politics of disability

Kate Macdonald ‘Kate Macdonald teaches English literature at Ghent University, Belgium, and is the author of many books, book chapters and articles on 20th-century British popular culture and literary history. She is a visiting research fellow at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, for autumn 2014-15, working on a project investigating depictions of physical impairment in British popular culture during the First World War.’

Pieter Verstraete is associate professor History of education at the Research Unit Education, Culture and Society of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the KU Leuven (Belgium). In his research he focuses on 1/the history of rehabilitation 2/the role played by emotions in the history of education 3/the educational history of prevention in the context of TBC, leprosy, polio and aids/hiv and 4/ the historical links between art, education and disability. He just co-authored a book on the history of Belgian invalid soldiers during the Great War (Dutch & French: Verminkte stilte/ Le silence mutilé) and is now working on a publication that will focus on the history of Belgian disabled veterans in the Inter-war period.

Dr Emmeline Burdett gained her PhD from University College London in 2011. She is an associate of the Centre for Culture and Disability Studies (CCDS) at Liverpool Hope University, and a book reviewer for H-Disability, which is part of H-Net, an online humanities resource run by Michigan State University. In addition she sub-edits for Disability Arts Online, and edited a number of chapters of Dr Colin Cameron’s book Disability Studies: A Student’s Guide. She contributed a chapter on Eugenics to the same book, and has also written a chapter for Dr David Bolt’s forthcoming book Changing Social Attitudes towards Disability. Her interests include disability and bioethics, and portrayals of disability in the arts.

Richard Rieser is the coordinator of UKDHM and a consultant, writer and trainer on disability equality and inclusive education which he carries out through World of Inclusion Ltd . Richard is a disabled activist, campaigner, teacher, writer and film maker and over the last 30 years has run a wide number of projects aimed at developing inclusion and greater disability equality in the UK and around the world. Through UKDHM he hopes to develop greater understanding of our struggles against oppression in the past to help achieve equality today and in the future.

Podcast Disability Now UKDHM, ILF, Freud and Party Conferences

October 22, 2014

Piece for Disability Now

Ellen Clifford

Gary Boulet

Richard Rieser

Mary Laver

UKDHM 2014 – Article from Disability News Service

September 27, 2014

Original article here

Disability History Month will look back to First World War

By John Pring, Disability News Service

This year’s UK Disability History Month (UKDHM) will examine the appalling treatment of veterans who became disabled after fighting in the First World War.

UKDHM was set up to celebrate disabled people’s lives and explore the history of negative attitudes and their consequences, and runs from 22 November to 22 December every year.

Last year it examined the struggle for independent living, and the threat caused by the government’s austerity cuts and its attack on the welfare state, the equality agenda and the UK’s international human rights obligations.

Previous events held during UKDHM have included school assemblies and history projects, film screenings, art and photography exhibitions, plays, university lectures, blogs and poetry evenings.

UKDHM coordinator Richard Rieser is now calling for organisations to start planning their events for this year’s UKDHM.

The fifth annual UKDHM will examine the links between war and impairment – feeding into the centenary of the start of the First World War – and how those veterans who become disabled through war have been treated.

Rieser said: “Every area in the UK was affected by people going off to war and coming back smashed to pieces, and to little help from the state. The whole emphasis was put instead on charitable donations.”

Because of the “disgruntlement” caused by the way disabled veterans were treated after the First World War, a framework of support for disabled people – and not just veterans – began to form as a result of the Second World War.

This framework, which included employment support, decent war pensions and state-funded rehabilitation, lasted until it began to be dismantled by the current coalition and the last Labour government, Rieser added.

He said: “By understanding history, people can see that the austerity cuts and the attack on disabled people and working people in general is a political decision and has nothing to do with economics.

“We are not arguing for any special treatment for disabled service people, we are saying the cuts are hitting all of us. They should be in common cause [with other disabled people] and saying, ‘This is not what should be happening.’”

He is keen that individuals and groups across the country look at what happened to disabled veterans from their families and local areas, and share those findings with UKDHM.

UKDHM also hopes to focus on how civilians have become more and more affected by wars as the twentieth century has progressed.

It will also be collaborating with Anti-bullying Week 2014, which takes place from 17-21 November and is this year focusing on the bullying of disabled young people.

As part of this year’s events, UKDHM has published a document – researched and written by Rieser, with support from the union Unite – examining the treatment of people who became disabled during past wars, particularly the two world wars.

It suggests that although special pleading for charity for disabled veterans has often been common, “generally attitudes and treatment towards disabled people are negative and discriminatory” and in the longer run “those with impairments created in war are also placed in the same negative category as other disabled people”.

While the response of most of the more than two million disabled veterans from the First World War In Britain was to “suffer in silence”, a minority fought for “rights not charity”.

Rieser quotes Viscount Castlerosse, a disabled veteran, writing in the Sunday Express in 1932. “Instead of demanding our rights we went hat in hand asking for charity,” he wrote. “We ought to have gone bayonet in hand demanding our rights.”

The document also looks at the creation of Remploy after the Second World War, shell shock – first recognised in print in 1915 and now known as post-traumatic stress disorder – and advances in battlefield medicine.

It concludes: “Although service people have been given a slightly better position than other disabled people, they are still subject to negative and oppressive treatment.

“Without their struggles we would not have the anti-discrimination legislation we have today.”

The document will be available from Rieser’s website, World of Inclusion, and the UKDHM website.

Organisations and individuals planning events to take place during the month should send details to UKDHM.

18 September 2014