Second disability history month will celebrate struggle for equality


The life of Helen Keller, disability hate crime and the history of the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN) are among the subjects that will be discussed and debated during the second UK Disability History Month.

The month-long series of events celebrates disabled people’s struggle for equality, and runs from 22 November to 22 December.

Richard Rieser, the founder and coordinator of UK DHM, said he was pleased with the event’s steady progress since its launch last year, despite its limited budget, although he said a key aim was to secure more mainstream attention.

Rieser is in talks with Channel 4, which is considering putting together a short season of themed programmes next year during the third UK DHM.

The month has secured strong support from unions, while 79 MPs signed last year’s Commons early day motion welcoming UK DHM, and actor and broadcaster Mik Scarlet has become UK DHM’s first patron.

Rieser said it was particularly important to highlight the history of disabled people’s struggle for equality and human rights at a time when many of those rights were under threat.

He said: “That is why it is even more important to understand the history, where we came from and where we need to go. It is not about political correctness, it is about fundamental freedom and rights.”

He added: “We have traditionally been the scapegoat and the reserve army of labour. Why should we be put in that position again when statistics tell us disabled people are the most efficient workers?”

The theme for this year’s event will be “celebrating our struggle for equality”, which Rieser said would have particular relevance following protests about cuts to benefits and services under the Hardest Hit banner, and the government’s “attacks on the rights, dignity and standards of living of disabled people in the UK”.

Among its highlights, the second UK DHM will include a screening of The Real Helen Keller, and a discussion with Ann Pugh, who co-directed and co-produced the documentary film; a discussion on mental health in the workplace; and an event featuring journalist and campaigner Katharine Quarmby, based on Scapegoat, her ground-breaking book on disability hate crime.

Other events are planned in Leicester, Bristol, Wolverhampton, and in schools across the country, while the new Disability History Month Scotland has its own website and a national conference in Edinburgh on 3 December.

The launch of this year’s UK DHM will take place at the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers, in London, from 5.30pm on Tuesday 22 November.

Speakers at the launch will include activist Barbara Lisicki, on the history of DAN in the 1990s; Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council, on the experience of black disabled people; Lucy Mason, on the history of disabled young voices; and comedian Laurence Clark.

Anyone interested in attending the launch event should email Richard Rieser at

3 November 2011


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