Why we need our disability history month
‘We are a long, long way from equality,’ says activist former teacher
20 November, 2020 — By Helen Chapman
Richard Rieser: ‘Here in London, despite having had the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, it was not used as an opportunity to make the underground network accessible’
A FORMER teacher who set up Disability History month said he organised the event to help tackle discrimination.
More than 200 people were logged on to the project’s launch on Wednesday.
Richard Rieser, a disabled activist from Newington Green who set up Disability History Month 11 years ago, said: “We are a long, long way from equality or access to services, access to information, access to transport and so on. Here in London, despite having had the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, it was not used as an opportunity to make the underground network accessible.”
The launch event was held over Zoom videocall technology due to the Covid crisis and saw a discussion on how much had changed since the Disability Discrimination Act came in 25 years ago.
Speakers at the launch event included MP John McDonnell who told those online about the need to campaign for legislative change.
Mr McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, said: “Disability campaigners have been making it clear that there’s no use to legislation unless you have proper law enforcement, particularly around changing the transport networks.”
He added: “I just think we’re on the edge of potentially quite radical change. Now with new technology, we can develop the range of access that people could achieve. But it is about making sure that innovation is driven by disabled people themselves.”
Other speakers at the event included Battersea MP Marsha de Cordova who spoke about visual impairment and how that affects her work in parliament, as well as Dr Armineh Soorenian who has researched how disabled pupils can be failed by some schools.
Mr Rieser called for a human rights approach when addressing accessibility in society, adding: “Attitudes in society still remain highly discriminatory. Black Lives Matter have now challenged or brought into the mainstream race discrimination. Discrimination against disabled people is still seen as an individual problem, people do not see it as a historic oppression that affects people, regardless of what type of impairment.”
All contributions from the evening can be seen at www.ukdhm.org