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UK Disability History Month 2023

UK Disability History Month, created in 2010, is an annual event that runs from 16th November to 16th December. It provides a platform to highlight historical struggles for equality, where society is now, and what action still needs to be taken.

Each year, UKDHM has a dedicated theme to shape the conversation, and this year’s focus is ‘Disability, Children & Youth’. 

Historical milestones

Disabled people have experienced a long history of being ostracised, marginalised and dismissed. There have been many significant historical events and milestones that have shaped the landscape of disability rights and advocacy within the UK, but the most progress has happened within the past 60 years. 


The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act was introduced, a first in the world to recognise and give legal rights to disabled people. 


In 1986, the Disabled Persons Act strengthened the provisions of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, requiring local authorities to meet the various needs of disabled people.


Disability Living Allowance was introduced in 1992, providing financial support for those with a registered disability. In 1995, protests by the disability community and allies led to the groundbreaking establishment of the Disability Discrimination Act.


In 2001, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act extended anti-discrimination legislation within educational settings and in 2004 a legal requirement to make accessibility adjustments to buildings came into effect.


Introduced in 2010, The Equality Act legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. The 2012 Paralympic games were hosted in the UK with extensive media coverage to improve recognition of disabled people as elite athletes. 

Current challenges

There are still many persisting challenges and barriers faced by children and young adults with disabilities in contemporary society.

Ableist harassment and bullying 

Young people within the disability community still face unjust harassment and bullying, on the streets, at school and on social media. This highlights a continued lack of education and understanding for non-disabled peers. 

Lack of policy and law implementation

Public bodies are under a Duty (sec 149 of the Equality Act) to have due regard to promoting Disability Equality and all service providers i.e transport, educational providers, venues and employers have a legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled people. However, this is often ignored rather than implemented. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission desperately needs to have more enforcement powers of the above laws. It’s also incredibly important to teach young disabled people of their rights so they are equipped to advocate for themselves.

Continuous exposure to stereotypes of disability

Although starting to make some progress in recent years, there are still significant stereotypes portrayed in toys, literature, computer games, films and TV. 

Accessibility issues

Many companies are still developing products and services without considering accessibility whether it be physical access, online access or funding access. This often leaves those within the disability community excluded or left behind. 

UK Disability History Month 2023 image taken from UKDHM

Celebrating achievements

Despite the consistent barriers, there are thousands of empowered disabled individuals showcasing their resilience, creativity, and determination in overcoming obstacles and making significant contributions to society.

Baroness Jane Campbell

Jane Campbell has dedicated her life as a disability rights activist (Co-founder of the National Centre for Independent Living and a commissioner on the Disability Rights Commission) and is one of the very few disabled MP’s in the House of Lords today, an undeniable achievement.

Victoria Jenkins 

A pioneer in the campaign for disability inclusive fashion, Victoria founded the hugely successful Unhidden, a leading clothing brand that caters for those with disabilities and medical conditions.

Euan MacDonald MBE

Euan is the co-founder of Euan’s Guide, the award-winning website making it easier for disabled people to find great, accessible places to go.

Ben Clark

Ben is the Founder/CEO of Adapt to Perform, the world’s largest resource of adapted fitness, helping thousands of disabled people all over the world get healthy no matter their ability.

Shaw Trust created the Disability Power 100 to change the public perception of disability and recognise influential leaders in their field. 

Promoting awareness and education

It’s critical to continue to raise awareness and promote education about disability history and rights. Through webinars, podcasts, and books, you can further educate yourself on how to be a better ally and support for people with disabilities in all aspects of life. You can also research initiatives to take part in that foster inclusivity. 

Looking to the future

Understanding historic milestones allows us to highlight where collaborative efforts still need to be made to create a more equitable and accessible society for all. 

Continued advocacy of disability rights and implementation of policies such as the recent consultation of The Disability Action Plan 2023 to 2024, which aims to bring together ideas and actions across Government to make disabled people’s lives more accessible and inclusive, is hugely monumental for progress.

At Mobility in Motion we provide vehicle adaptations that help children and young adults enjoy accessible car travel and independent driving. Contact our team to find out how we could help you. 

We also have a blog exploring the importance of UK Disability Pride Month which promotes celebrating your journey and achievements.