Peers, MPs and disabled people have gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a groundbreaking and “inspirational” piece of disability legislation.
The anniversary of the implementation of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act was marked by a service at The Holy Apostles Catholic Church in Pimlico, London, on 26 November.
Lord [Alf] Morris, who introduced the legislation as a private members’ bill as a backbench Labour MP and went on to become the UK’s first minister for disabled people, was guest of honour at the service.
The Labour MP Tom Clarke praised Lord Morris and told the service that his act was “not only a hugely important piece of legislation” but inspired other MPs to introduce further “socially progressive bills” in the years that followed.
He said the act was the first piece of legislation anywhere in the world to deal with disabled people’s access to buildings.
And he said the act “broke the barrier” on mobility and transport and “made future advances possible”, including the orange badge parking scheme, which was introduced through the act, and meant that accessible transport “became a practical reality rather than a dream”.
Clarke said the act also recognised dyslexia and autism in legislation in the UK for the first time, while giving disabled people rights to adaptations to their homes.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols praised Lord Morris’s “clear and far-sighted vision of a society in which such disabilities or chronic sickness would no longer exclude people from so many of its activities and advantages”.
He said the “roots” of the “tree of opportunity” were now “much more firmly established” but there was “still plenty to be done”.
He added: “The challenge of increasing accessibility and participation is there for all to see.”
In addition to Lord Morris, other peers attending the service included the disabled peer Baroness Masham, who made her maiden speech in the Lords on the bill.
29 November 2010