Adam Thomas appeared on The Reunion – Disability Campaigners today, with a group of people involved in the historic disability rights campaign.
Joining Sue around to discuss what was dubbed “the last civil rights movement” are Baroness Jane Campbell who was arrested during campaigning; Sir Bert Massie who was accused of being an “Uncle Tom” when he started working with the Government; Peter White who, as the BBC’s Disability Correspondent, had a front row seat on the campaign; Lord Hague who steered the Disability Discrimination Act through Parliament; and Adam Thomas who met his wife while chained to a bus!
Segregated from other children in ‘special schools’, hidden away in institutions or trapped and powerless in family homes, this was normal life for millions of disabled people in Britain in the 60s and 70s. Turned away from cafes and restaurants for “putting other customers off” and considered “a fire hazard” in cinemas, cruel names and insensitive questions were a regular indignity.
In 1979 a Government report found that discrimination against disabled people was as bad as that relating to race or gender, highlighting the case of a draughtsman whose job offer was withdrawn because he had a prosthetic leg. In the 1980s, a new generation of disabled people started challenging society and the Government, saying it was society that prevented them from actively participating in a fuller working and social life. When letters and peaceful campaigning failed, demonstrators upped the ante, chaining themselves to buses and bringing Whitehall to a standstill. The campaign split friendships and loyalties and left many bitterly disappointed.
Touching up on the role of RADAR and DAN, hear the story unfold in a fascinating programme. Catch up on iPlayer by using this link.