Scope marks 20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act

PHM has been working with Scope to collect campaigning material relating to the campaign for the Disability Discrimination Act. Here their Campaign Officer, Tom Hayes, writes about the success of the project so far.

Nelson Mandela is known the world over for his impressive fight against racial segregation in South Africa.  Helped by a recent blockbuster film, Britain’s women’s suffrage movement is better known among people today. Whether projected onto big screens or taught in classrooms, similar civil rights fights from Selma to Stonewall are well-known.

Other equality campaigns have been wholly forgotten, however. Twenty years ago this month, Parliament finally passed a law to ban discrimination against disabled people. This change would never have happened without the fierce campaigning of disabled people.

Rights Now! rally, Trafalgar Square.jpg

Rights Now! rally, Trafalgar Square. Copyright Scope

In their thousands, disabled people gridlocked cities up and down the country, throwing themselves from their wheelchairs and chaining themselves to buses. Their message was clear: activists wanted rights. Not tomorrow or in a year, but, as their campaign’s name demonstrated: Rights Now!

For the first time, disabled people joined together, discovered they were not isolated and alone, and decisively smashed society’s flawed view of disability as something requiring pity not rights.

The law passed twenty years ago – the Disability Discrimination Act – fell short of the civil rights Act that so many disabled people campaigned for. But the campaign itself was life-changing for so many and challenged society’s stereotypes and negative attitudes.

Many of the leading disabled campaigners drew inspiration from the fights against Apartheid and for the vote for women.

The suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst is the only person that one of today’s leading disabled campaigners and a civil rights veteran, Baroness Jane Campbell, says she would be if she could travel back in time.

Many Rights Now! members moved into disability rights campaigning  from the anti-Apartheid movement because they despised the injustice of segregation wherever they saw it.

However, in sharp distinction to the equality campaigners who inspired them, Baroness Campbell and others have a hidden history of campaigning. The campaign which took so much of the media spotlight in 1994 and 1995 has been entirely forgotten today.

Young disabled people – even those who campaign for change in their communities today –have been shocked to find their rights have not always been there and needed a fight to bring about.

That’s why Scope has been celebrating the civil rights activists who fought for equality and brought about the change that happened twenty years ago this month.  We’re proud to be working closely with the People’s History Museum to preserve a past in danger of disappearing. Together we have appealed to campaigners to rummage through their attics and find mementoes.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of the treasures that leading campaigners have shared with us as a direct result of our joint public appeal for donations. Until that time we will be sharing some stories of the civil rights campaign, as told by the leading activists themselves.

The campaigns which inspired disabled activists twenty years ago are honoured every day by the People’s History Museum in the galleries that are seen annually by tens of thousands of visitors.

Together we want as many people to see disabled people’s campaigning, right alongside better-known movements, so that their campaigning can inspire today’s activists as much as others do.

Disabled people’s campaigning has been central to our national march towards equality. Scope can have no better partner to honour this campaign than the People’s History Museum – the nation’s own museum of democracy and equality.


Break the Vault!

A guest blog by artist Pui Lee about last week’s Break the Vault! family friendly workshop

Well, hello again to everyone! It’s October half term and I was delighted to be back again at the People’s History Museum to deliver another fun-filled art workshop for you all inspired by the Show Me the Money exhibition.

Break the Vault  People's History Museum 28.10.15 (16)Wednesday’s family friendly session was called, Break the Vault! and all the participants got the opportunity to create their own fabulous 3D cardboard bank vault sculpture to take home with them! The children learned about what a bank vault/safe was and they were then asked to think about what things they would personally want to keep safe – and thus, thinking about the idea of value. This could be an actual object, an abstract idea or even a person or animal! They then had to make this “thing” to put inside their vault. This could be done as a 3D response using recycled materials or be a 2D hand-drawn response.

Break the Vault  People's History Museum 28.10.15 (21)As always, I brought along an example that I made earlier and in my vault, I put a big red heart. 🙂 It was great to see all the families discussing the ideas and working on a creative project together. There were definitely a lot of fantastic vaults produced today and it was interesting to see what went into them: a favourite family photograph, a black and white dog, a football, a teddy bear and a mini love-heart, to name just a few! Some of the children also said they would also be using the vault to store some of their special keepsakes when they get home. – Now that’s what I call practical art! :-p One grandparent offered this feedback at the end, “Superb activity and the kids obviously enjoyed it – you could tell! They wanted to stay until the end to make it.” Meanwhile, another parent commented, “This is different. – We’ve never done anything like this before! It sounds really fun and we get to see the show too!”

The participants also got the opportunity this afternoon to respond to my, All the Money in the World installation, which began at the end of July this year! I had a quick look at it before I left today and gosh, it has grown even bigger since I last saw it! Initially inspired by Simon Robert’s text installation, Credit Crunch Lexicon, my participatory piece here explores the idea of wealth and value, allowing members of the public to consider their place in the world today. It was great to see museum visitors of all ages engage with the piece and it crucially stimulated relevant conversation and debate, which is what I had hoped for. The piece will continue to be on show until Sunday 24 January 2016 when the exhibition closes, so please do have a look and offer your thoughts on it too!