Members of Vale People First's 'Changing Perceptions, Changing Lives' project

Disability History Month (DHM), which runs from 18 November – 20 December in the UK, aims to create a platform to explore the history of disabled people’s struggle for equality and human rights.

This year, the theme ‘Leadership, Resistance and Culture’, will focus on disabled leaders throughout history and their struggle to change the way disability has been viewed and spoken about. The month will explore notable disabled leaders and examples of collective resistance to the persecution faced by disabled people at work, in education and in their local community.

DHM will involve a series of events and talks in schools, public spaces and organisations to promote the movement for fairness, equality and disabled rights. Materials like this broadsheet will also be distributed around local communities to explain the theme and recognise the diverse range of disabilities including learning, mental, physical, invisible and sensory.

The report, ‘Being disabled in Britain: A journey less equal’, published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2017, outlines the significant health inequalities faced by disabled people living in Great Britain. Findings from the report highlight that as a result of unemployment and lower educational attainment, disabled people are more likely to develop serious mental and physical health conditions. On average, men with mental health conditions die 20 years earlier than the general population, and women, 13 years earlier.

At the Trust, many of the projects we fund enable groups of people who have shared experiences, characteristics or common interests to come together and address health inequalities by taking action on issues that are important to them. As part of DHM, some projects funded by People’s Health Trust are encouraging disabled people to share their experiences to promote greater awareness and understanding of disability rights in their local communities. Meeting Up and Learning Together, is a project run by Speak Out in Hounslow, which delivers weekly sessions for adults with learning disabilities in Hounslow to come together, socialise and learn new skills. Members lead campaigns on important local issues and take part in mystery shops of various services in the area, providing feedback on how to make them more accessible to the wider learning-disabled community.

Project Manager, Sally Malit, explained: “Disability Awareness Month is a really important time for us. It’s about representing all types of disabilities, celebrating diversity and making them known. It is a good way to break down barriers and have a conversation about things some people don’t like talking about.”

Staff member, Sarfraz Kherdin, said: “At Speak Out in Hounslow, we treat every month as Disability Awareness Month. Considering this year’s theme, we promote leadership by supporting members to make decisions, show resistance to services that aren’t accessible and change culture by representing our members on various boards and consultation groups.”

Deaf Together, run by Empowering Deaf Society, is a project that offers a weekly social club and workshops for deaf adults living in Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, and Havering. Members choose the topics and often lead activities which include bingo sessions, film screenings and quiz nights. Mangai Sutharsan, Project Lead, explained: “Members of the Deaf community very often experience isolation, barriers, and a lack of confidence. The project enables them to come together and try something new, building friendships and strong support networks, whilst addressing barriers and health inequalities at a local level.”

Mangai added: “During Disability Awareness Month this year, we are planning a Christmas event for our members and their families. We expect around 180 people to attend for a special Christmas meal, entertainment, crafts and activities, party games and even a visit from Deaf Santa!”

Bristol Disability Equality Forum, which is funded by the Trust for its Making Change Happen project, runs Peer Support sessions where Deaf and Disabled people can socialise, share information and tips on managing in an inaccessible world, and take action to get barriers removed. It also organised an event in the early part of DHM to launch a new project exploring the 1970s - 2000s Disabled Movement in Bristol.

Forum Manager, Laura Welti, said: “We hope it will bridge a generational divide, and support a new generation of activists, through young and older members working together to record the history of Bristol’s Disabled people’s movement based on accounts from key activists and leaders of the movement during this period.”

Changing Perceptions, Changing Lives, run by Vale People First in Glamorgan, is a project led by local people with learning disabilities. John, a project member, explained: “The project promotes the ethos that people with learning disabilities can do anything they want to do, with the right support.

Vale People First Coordinator, Liz Davidson added: Thanks to funding from the Trust, we recently produced a Manifesto, which outlines the expectations of people with learning disabilities. We aim to encourage society and decision makers be more positive about and inclusive of people with learning disabilities.”

To find out more about Disability History Month and events taking place near you, click here.

Are you planning to do something for Disability History Month this year? If so, we would love to hear from you. To send us your pictures and stories, click here.

To read more news from the Trust, click here.

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