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UK Disability History Month, 22nd November-22nd December 2019

Linda Bradshaw, Leicester NEU Equal Opportunities Officer
14th November 2019

Every school has disabled pupils, staff and family members. UK Disability History Month is an opportunity within your school to develop a culture of respect for difference and a chance to remove the barriers, so that all can achieve their potential.

The DfE reports that up to 80% of disabled learners experience bullying and are 8 times more likely than non-disabled learners to be excluded or suspended. However, the law requires reasonable adjustments to be implemented with no discrimination or harassment.

UKDHM takes place between 22nd November and 22nd December each year, though many events and activities take place outside this time slot. It is supported by more than 100 organisations, including the NEU.

The purpose of UK Disability History Month is:
to raise awareness of the unequal position of disabled people in society and to advocate disability equality
to develop an understanding of the historical roots of this inequality
to highlight the significance of disabled people's struggles for equality and inclusion and the 'social model' of disability
to publicise and argue for the full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the Equality Act 2010.

Disabled people don't just identify as disabled, but also as women or men, girls or boys, straight or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, black or ethnic minorities, refugees and asylum seekers, or religious minorities; and of all classes in society. Throughout the UKDHM it will be important to recognise that disabled people have multiple identities, and are possibly members of other groups subjected to discriminatory practice; and to ensure that the diverse nature of disabled people is recognised in terms of the range and type of impairment that is included, eg. neuro-diverse, mental health issues, learning difficulty, physical, invisible and sensory impairments.

UKDHM adopts and supports a social and human rights approach to disability rather than a medical or traditional model approach. The theme of UKDHM 2019 is Leadership, Resistance and Culture. We will look at disabled leaders. We will look at their ideas and their struggle to be equal and included. We will look at how the leaders changed the way disability was seen. We celebrate the lives of disabled people and those who have made these changes possible to improve things for all disabled people. Even though they have faced barriers, some individual disabled people have become leaders — for example the President of Ecuador, who has a spinal injry and uses a wheelchair, or the writer John Milton who was blind. However, many disabled people are held back by the world around them and the attitudes of other people. The struggle for an inclusive world where disabled people have full rights and access continues.

All state-funded schools have a general duty to promote equality for disabled people under the Equalilty Act 2010. This consists of the:

elimination of discrimination, harassment and victimisation
advancing of equality of opportunity
fostering of good relations

Utilising these resources will help teachers fulfil these statutory requirements, develop disability equality and create greater understanding of the position of disabled people and their treatment over time. In our schools and colleges we can put up displays, hold assemblies and dintroduce disability equality as a focus across the curriculum.

NEU resource pack


Related articles

Disability Access Initiative - Meeting spells out new duties for schools (5th June 2006)
Disability Discrimination Act - Three Key Duties (5th December 2005)
Inclusion - Do It Properly (6th December 2004)
Disability Discrimination Act May Hit Schools (10th September 2001)
NEU Disabled Members' Conference, 27-29 September 2019 (9th October 2019)
Disabled teachers (11th April 2018)
Disability Equality in Teaching Now! (10th November 2017)
The NUT's three equality conferences (9th May 2016)
Disabled Teachers' Conference (4th May 2014)
Disabled Teachers' Conference (20th February 2012)
Equalities Matters (14th June 2010)