Disability History Month commenced in Manchester with a celebration of disability and art at Manchester’s Central Library last Friday. A strong component of the event was its focus on the synergy of activism, art and disability. So it was particularly apt that local singer song-writer Dennis Queen performed live at the event, and films of iconic disability rights activist Ian Stanton’s performances were on display.
Due to austerity-driven changes and cuts to social security, there is an increasing need for disabled activists to highlight the human rights abuses being carried out by our government. In 2016 the United Nations released a report saying that UK welfare reforms had led to “grave and systematic violations” of the rights of disabled people. Another UN report this year found that the UK government was failing to uphold disabled people’s rights in work, education, housing, health, transport and social security. The UK government denies these allegations, and is planning more austerity driven-cuts that will leave two million of the poorest families in the UK £50 a week worse off by 2020.
Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) organised the event at the library, alongside Manchester City Council (MCC). Caron Blake of GMCDP was pleased with how the day had gone, and described the importance of activism to the organisation:
“The GMCDP is a campaigning organisation; it’s all about our history, it’s all about campaigning for the rights of disabled people to be included in support, and against austerity. The cuts to benefits and services is a huge thing that has had a massive impact on disabled people. And we do campaign to raise awareness about that as well.”
On display were two editions of The Accessibles comic books, which were created through a collaboration between GMCDP young disabled people, MCC and local comic artist Jim Medway. The first edition illustrates two local disabled youths travelling through time, visiting momentous events and iconic characters in disability history. The second edition covers the subject of hate crime, describing the diverse nature of hate crime, the stories of disabled people who have experienced it and how to deal with it.
Other events during Disability History Month in Manchester include:
- Screening of Unrest – A film depicting the story of a PhD student who falls ill with chronic myalgic encephalomyelitis, and her battle to communicate the reality of the condition to the public. Followed by a panel discussion featuring: Dennis Queen, Melissa Johns and Cherylee Houston – 8 December, 18:00, HOME.
- Screening of The Best of Men – Charts the events that led to the creation of the Paralympic Games – 10 December, 19:30- 22:00, University of Manchester.
- A Roundtable Discussion on Disability History – Open discussion on the history of the disabled people’s movement – 14 December, 19:30 -22:00, University of Manchester.
Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts have their monthly meeting at Manchester Central Library on Thursday 7 December, 2pm-4pm. For further details – click here
Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People website – click here
Photos: Conrad Bower
Feature Image: segment of the cover of The Accessibles 2, courtesy of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People