Recognizing UK’s Disability History Month

Three days from now marks the end of another UK Disability History Month(UKDHM). UKDHM is an annual event organized to increase awareness regarding how disabled people are viewed and how they have been effected through a historical context. The organization behind Disability History Month informs people how to get involved. Provided are various resources intended to inspire people to – if not take action against the inequalities faced by disabled people in the UK – at least take notice.

The event runs a month from November 22 to December 22 every year beginning in 2010. The dates where strategically chosen for various reasons. “This covers HIV/AIDS Day (December 1), International Day of People with Disabilities (December 3) and International Human Rights Day (December 10). It also follows directly from Anti-Bullying Week (November 19 to 23), which is important as 2.5 times as much bullying is recorded towards disabled as compared to non-disabled young people (70 to 80 per cent of young disabled people claim to have been bullied in school and college). [It is] split across the two months to allow for the Christmas shut down and to allow for four weeks in school term time.

The logo used to represent DHM is based on a black triangle that disabled people were forced to wear during the Nazi regime in order to “designate them as unsociable”. This triangle is placed over a yellow circular background. The purpose of this logo is to reclaim the symbol from such a traumatic time for the disabled and turn it into a symbol of prosperity and freedom. This goes to show that DHM is willing to showcase even the most painful of moments in order to present an accurate and sobering perspective on the historical plight of the disabled.

The thing that I found particularly interesting and relevant to this blog is this years theme: celebrating our struggle for independent living. Event co-ordinator Richard Reiser explains that he “felt that with all the cutbacks taking place, both in local authority and central government funding, the struggle for independent living needed to be better understood by a wider number of people. They need to know what’s at stake for disabled people if their support gets taken away”.

This is what I feel is so important about DHM. Not only does it offer the resources for an extensive history of issues faced by people living with disability, it goes beyond the struggles faced in the past. By discussing everything from social structure in the medieval times to modern austerity measures, this month’s theme blends an historical context with a plea for change today. It discusses definite practical problems that are still effecting the disabled.

While this movement is based in the UK and has yet to expand into other areas of the world, the event has enjoyed steady growth over it’s 4 year history and will hopefully become an internationally recognized movement.

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