Nov 262011

22nd November : A  poignant, funny , political evening in Mander Hall launches UK Disability History Month 2011.

Nina Franklin, NUT President, told the meeting of 60 disabled people and their allies that she identified as a disabled person, how important UKDHM was to raise awareness, to support the  struggle for equality disabled people face and to remind us of the abuses of the past,  which are unfortunately still continuing. Nina told of how privileged she had been to take part in a school trip to Auschwitz where the Nazi killing programme of disabled people was symbolised by the Black Triangle. This has been reclaimed by the UKDHM Logo.

Ellen Goodey, a 29 year actor/poet, musician, trainer and office worker  with Down’s Syndrome told the meeting about her life and said ‘it was only possible because she had attended mainstream nursery, primary, secondary, college and university and been included’.

Richard Rieser (UKDHM Coordinator) told the meeting that we must learn the lessons of the struggles of the past by disabled people, which have led to the current improved position and mobilise to defend what we have got with our allies, now that we are subject to attacks in our livelihood and ideologically in the press and by Government.  More than 50 events and exhibitions were taking place throughout the UK in the month. Barbara Lisicki recounted how the Direct Action Network won struggle for accessible busses.

Maresa Mackeith,  a-non verbal, English graduate, presented her inspiration by C18th disabled women poets like Mary Lepour, Mary Chandler, Marry Scott and Ann Lesley and how she and a group of 9 other non-verbal young people have set up Quiet Revolution to get equality for non-verbal young people.

Ruth Bashall, a lesbian and disability rights activist, talked of the increase in hate crime both domestic and in the street to disabled people highlighted by the recent EHRC Report Hidden in Plain Sight, which clearly was a result of the economic policies leading to a minority of people scapegoating disabled people.

Lucy Mason, who has brittle bones contrasted her  life to her mother who has the same condition. Her mother had not gone to school in 1950’s/1960’s, until she was 14, and then was sent to residential boarding school where she got an education but was not equipped to deal with life. Lucy had gone although inclusive school and was now a youth activist empowerment trainer working all round the world.

Tony Crosby from Heritage Lottery Fund said they had already given grants of £4.5million for groups of disabled people to discover their history and called for more applications.

A letter was read out from Penny Beschizza of British Deaf Association committing the BDA to support UKDHM from 2012.

The evening was rounded up by Laurence Clarke– a ‘stand up’ comedian who operates from his wheelchair who told the audience if they can’t understand him ‘that’s tough’ as he has cerebral palsy. Laurence talked about the embarrassment and ignorance he and his disabled wife had in the NHS as they prepare for their first and now second child and had us in stitches over the ridiculous attitudes that some medical professionals HAVE.

Report by Richard Rieser

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