What Is Disability History Month?

UK Disability History Month takes place from 16th November to 16th December. It is an annual, month-long event that gives people with disabilities a platform to spread awareness about the struggle for equality and human rights that many people with disabilities have faced throughout history, and many continue to face. 

The theme for UK Disability History Month 2023 is Disability Childhood and Youth. This theme shines a light on the experiences of young people with disabilities, exploring how they have been treated in the past and how they are currently treated, as well as working towards shaping ideas of how people with disabilities wish to be treated and valued in the future.

What Is a Disability?

A disability is any physical or mental condition that has a substantial and long-term effect that makes it difficult for the person with the disability to do certain activities and interact with the world around them. There are many different kinds of disability, which can affect a person in many different areas of their life. This may include vision, hearing, brain function or processing, communication and speech, learning, movement or mobility, mental health, social relationships and memory.

Disability is one of the nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010. This law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based on these characteristics, helping to promote a fairer and more equal society. Despite this, many people with disabilities still face discrimination. Discrimination against people based on disability is referred to as ableism. It is typically based on irrational hatred, intolerance and fear of people with disabilities. 

Why Is Disability History Month Important?

Historically, people with disabilities have faced discrimination, often stemming from a lack of understanding about disabilities and a de-valuing of people with disabilities in society. Events such as the Paralympics have challenged attitudes towards disabilities, particularly in recent years, however there is still a great deal of work to be done for people with disabilities to be treated equally. Disability History Month challenges the way we may view disabilities, aims to educate people about the history of disabilities, celebrates the achievements of people with disabilities and campaigns for disability equality.

How Can I Celebrate Disability History Month?

One of the most important things to consider when it comes to marginalised groups is to listen to people that belong to those groups. It may be a good idea to showcase some inspirational people with disabilities, or even arrange for an inspirational person with a disability to come to your school and talk about their achievements. 

Here are some ideas of other ways you could celebrate Disability History Month on a smaller scale:

  • UK Disability History Month is asking for young people with disabilities to contribute to their ‘Exploration’. They are asking each contributor to express the good, the bad and the changes they would like as young disabled people. Entrants must have a disability and experience disadvantage due to socially created barriers. 
  • Create an eye-catching display with information about Disability History Month and some of the key people and events that relate to it. 
  • Teach your students about protected characteristics and discrimination.
  • Hold meaningful discussions about the rights of people with disabilities, including how certain language and attitudes can be harmful.
  • Encourage your students to do their own research and complete the Inspirational Person Fact File to showcase a person with disabilities that they find inspirational.
  • Use Beyond’s fun Disability History Month Quiz (add link for resource) to test your students’ knowledge and help them learn about disability throughout history. 

Do you now feel more confident in your understanding of what Disability History Month is? If you’re looking for further information, we have a great range of helpful blogs here! You can also subscribe to Beyond for access to thousands of secondary teaching resources. You can sign up for a free account here and take a look around at our free resources before you subscribe too.

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