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UK Disability History Month (UKDHM)
UK Disability History Month runs from 18 November until 18 December every year. The UKDHM aligns to the social model of disability, in which the barriers of attitude, environment, and organisation are deemed to cause the majority of the disablism encountered today. Scope’s Everyday Equality Strategy is based on the social model of disability, and more information about the model can be found on our website.
However, this concept was not recognised in the past, with individuals and their impairments held responsible for the disadvantages they faced, and worse. Disabled individuals were classified as bewitched, punished by God, or evil.
In this period of Universal Human Rights, we can reflect and reinterpret the mistreatment, resulting from our systemic oppression, caused by negative attitudes, barriers, and ignorance. Such examination of the past allows us to highlight what must actively change for disabled people to achieve equal opportunity. Therefore, the main aims of UKDHM are to:
- Celebrate lives as disabled people now and in the past.
- Challenge disablism by exploring our oppression over time and now.
- Achieve equality.
This year’s UKDHM focuses on two persistent stereotypes that make disabled people’s lives more challenging, and act as a barrier to their inclusion:
2) Disability and Hidden Impairments
Relationships and Sex
According to Mann (2014), “44% of Britons would not consider having sex with someone who had a physical disability”.
This statistic is somewhat unsurprising given that, for millennia, people with disabilities, both visible and invisible, have been de-sexualised, perceived as perpetual children, and actively discouraged from developing adult relationships.
Fortunately, in the UK today, all children, regardless of disability status, are provided with sex and relationship education (SRE), and action is taking place to destigmatise previous thoughts about relationships and sex in relation to disability.
Through this form of education, more confident generations of young disabled people are finding the joy of diverse sex and relationships with partners of their own choice. However, a disempowering approach to disability can still trigger huge harm, including issues around abuse and lack of consent.
Disability and Hidden Impairments
Many disabled people have an invisible or hidden impairment. In fact, more than half the 13.5 million people currently identified as disabled in the UK have hidden impairments (UKDHM.org). Scope have also campaigned alongside ITV to address the stigma associated with hidden impairments. If you’re interested in viewing the campaign, you can read our post about it here on the community.
Unfortunately, many of these people are often perceived as not having an impairment aren’t immediately visible, including:
- Chronic pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Heart conditions
- Hearing or visual impairments
It could also be cognitive or neurological impairments such as:
- Specific learning difficulties like dyslexia and dyspraxia.
- Neurodivergence, or mental health conditions which can include; anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar, and schizophrenia.
Any of these ‘invisible’ conditions, whether it be temporary or chronic, can change the way a person lives, works, studies, and socialises. Being aware of the different ways in which we can adapt to one another’s needs, will help foster a more inclusive environment, in which everyone is valued, respected, and equal.
What can you do during Disability History Month?
- Tell people about UKDHM and why it exists.
- Challenge disablist assumptions, remarks, and policies where you live, work, travel, and socialise.
- If you have a hidden impairment, you could consider ‘coming out’ to a trusted friend, workplace colleague, or employer.
- Ask for reasonable adjustments in shops, cinemas, restaurants, cafes, theatres, and at work.
- Reach out to colleagues at work, family, friends, and partners who can potentially support you.
Resources that might be useful:
- Scope’s online community offers information and advice about both themes relating to: Relationships and Sex and Disability and Hidden Impairments.
- Reader-friendly overview of disability history (Historic England).
- Resources on Sex and Relationships (UKDHM.org).
- Resources on Hidden Impairments (UKDHM.org).
What are your thoughts on UKDHM?
Can you think of any good or bad practices that you’ve personally experienced in relation to disability and hidden impairments?
Can you think of any good or bad practices that you’ve personally experienced in relation to relationships and sex?
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