What is Disability History Month?
Disability History Month was first celebrated in 2010 and recognises the history of the struggle for equality and human rights for disabled people. Did you know that until 1995 it was completely legal to discriminate against disabled people? But even after the Disability Discriminatory Act (DDA) was passed in 1995, not much changed. The Act aimed to outlaw discrimination against disabled people but it was limited in scope, widely ignored and poorly enforced.
It was only twelve years ago that the DDA was replaced with the Equality Act (2010), strengthening the protection of disabled people’s rights (in some situations). This underpinned the first official definition of disability as a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities (Equality Act 2010).
In 2010, multiple disabled led organisations understandably felt the need to have a specific time in the year when the history of their struggle for equality and human rights could be highlighted. As a result of campaigning, 79 Members of Parliament signed an ‘Early Day Motion’ encouraging people to campaign to improve the position of disabled people in society and work to reduce inequality, and urging the Government to ensure that its policies and latest spending cuts would be properly assessed in terms of their impact on people with disabilities so that they would not exacerbate existing inequalities. This saw the beginning of the official Disability History Month which now runs between November and December each year.
Disability and Homelessness
Many people who experience homelessness also have disabilities. According to Shelter, 54% of people with a significant disability (1.8m adults) do not have a safe or secure home, compared with 30% of people without a disability. This is not surprising when taking into account that people who live in households where there is one or more disabled people, are more likely to experience poverty. Discrimination in society, at work, and a lack of provision for disabled individuals likely contribute to these statistics.
Sometimes, depending on their disability, people can also struggle to access homelessness services.
Disability, Health and Wellbeing at St Mungo’s
This year’s UK Disability History Month’s theme is Disability, Health and Wellbeing, following the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on those with disabilities.
At St Mungo’s, just under a quarter of the people we support have a disability. We offer a range of support including specialist care, support with accessing mental and physical health care on the NHS, our own counselling service, and various support services for mental health and addiction needs. Earlier this year, we launched a review into care services for those who have experienced homelessness, highlighting the need for more provision. During the pandemic, we also spearheaded campaigns for free tests for those in homelessness accommodation to continue, and also to encourage those who can to get vaccinated.
In terms of our staff, about 10% of our employees have disclosed to us that they have a disability. We have a Disability Action Network which advocates for our disabled colleagues, as well as various forms of mental health support, free access to online, out of hours GP and flexible and work from home arrangements. We are a Disability Confident employer.
Find out more about working for St Mungo’s.