UK Disability History Month (UKDHM) 2019 (22nd November – 22nd December) is focused on disabled leaders throughout history and the challenges they faced to be respected and accepted. It is examining how the leaders of the Disabled People’s Movement brought about changes to the perception of disability. Where it was once seen merely as a “personal burden”, it became a human rights issue. This was achieved through the development of the social model of disability from how it stood in 1970 through to the modern age, and the lessons to be learnt from this.
We will be celebrating UKDHM by hosting an event at The Harris in Preston on 15th December from 11am – 2pm – a family friendly, free and fun event to celebrate Disability History Month. There will be information stalls, from local organisations such as Millercare, HfT Lancashire, Lemon Men dance company, us (we know, we love a good stall too!) and more.
There will be a free raffle, an opportunity to make Vintage Christmas decorations and learn more about disabled leaders, past and present.
What’s the story of UKDHM?
UKDHM is an annual event that serves as a platform for focusing on the history of the struggle for disabled people to achieve equality and human rights. It started in 2010 and has provided a diverse range of people with disabilities to document the long history of disability and become agents of change within their communities. The span of disability history month, from 22nd November to 22nd December, spans HIV/AIDS day, International Day of People with Disabilities and International Human Rights Day. It also closely follows anti-bullying week, which is significant as disabled young people are 2.5x more likely to experience bullying than non-disabled young people.
Did you know that under the Single Equality Act, a person with HIV/AIDS may meet the definition of disability and therefore be protected from discrimination and entitled to extra support, particularly in relation to employment. We work locally with Renaissance who can do on the spot testing and provide support for anyone living with or affected by the HIV Virus.
And a big shout out for the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities (though we would say disabled people) which is a little known piece of legislation, but a key one for disabled people!
Important disabled leaders and influencers
There are many who are considered role models in the world of famous figures with disabilities. Most recently, the young Greta Thunberg has made headlines across the globe for her work in raising awareness about the environment, and her autism has been a factor of many of those headlines. There is also Nasa Begum, who has spoken of the ‘triple oppression’ of being a black disabled woman. There have been some particularly inspiring figures of disabled history:
One of history’s great disabled leaders was political activist Harriet Tubman. She was born into slavery around 1820 and suffered from a brain injury after being struck by an overseer. She experienced epileptic seizures and narcolepsy, among other symptoms. Nevertheless, she escaped her bonds and made over a dozen missions to rescue some 70 enslaved people. During the American Civil War, she became the first woman to lead a major military operation, rescuing more than 700 slaves in the Combahee Ferry Raid. She continued the fight after abolition, campaigning for women’s suffrage and human rights, and is remembered as one of the most inspiring and influential figures of the Civil Rights Movement.
Rosa May Billinghurst
Another figure of particular significance is Rosa May Billinghurst, who was branded the “crippled suffragette” by the press in the late 19th and early 20th century. A bout of childhood polio had left her unable to walk, but she was one of the most fierce campaigners for women to get the vote in the entire suffragette movement. Undeterred by her disability, she was a prominent figure at suffrage demonstrations, attracting considerable attention to the movement. She endured abuse from police during a period of incarceration, which included being force-fed during a hunger strike. She is an inspiring example of a person who refused to let her disability hold her back, playing a crucial role in changing the future of society in the UK.
An important part of human history
There is no doubt that disability has been a factor of human existence since the very first modern humans came into existence. This history has been one of struggle, but what UKDHM celebrates is the incredible achievements of prominent disabled figures throughout history and in modern society. As such, Disability Equality North West and the Harris Museum are proud to be hosting an event marking this important month for anyone with an interest in human history.
Awareness of, and respect for, disabilities of all kinds has raised significantly in recent years, particularly with the prominence of the Paralympic games. Not all disabilities are visible, but every person with a disability has their own story to tell. The lives and stories of histories greatest disabled leaders and figures are an inspiration to all, but particularly for those in the modern world who face the challenges that their disability presents every day. The goal of a fair and equal society for disabled people has never been nearer, and it is our pleasure to mark the 2019 occasion.
For more information about UK Disability History Month 2019, please visit this link for a wealth of information about the theme of leaders and culture.