July is Disability pride month, and it is a month-long celebration of the lives, culture, and achievements of disabled people. It has been celebrated every year in the UK since 2015 to raise awareness of the everyday challenges and prejudices that people with disabilities face. It is estimated that one in five people in the UK lives with a form of disability.

This might be a physical disability that restricts their movement and possibly means that they rely on a wheelchair for independence; or it could also mean a neurological or sensory disability, such as sight or hearing loss. 

During July, events will be held around the country to enable people with disabilities to come together and celebrate themselves, and to continue the aims and achievements of the Disability Rights Movement. This is the historic battle that disabled people have faced to be recognised as equal citizens in society and have protected rights and opportunities.

The movement gathered strength after World War One, when significant numbers of young men returned home from the war with severe physical or mental impairments. The Central Council of Care was established in 1919 to care for injured ex-servicemen and rehabilitate them into society where possible.

The Central Council of Care evolved into the present-day Disability Rights UK organisation, which continues to advocate for disabled people. It wasn’t until the 1970s that disabled people were able to access universal support from the government and social services, and laws regarding the accessibility of public buildings were introduced.

In 1995, the landmark Disability Discrimination Act was introduced in the UK, which made it illegal to discriminate against disabled people for employment, provision of goods, facilities or services. The laws were extended and revised in the Equality Act 2010, providing further rights and protections for people with disabilities. 

However, the reality is that disabled people still face day to day barriers and discrimination, either through ignorance or willful disregard for the law. Often disabled people may find it difficult to report their experiences, or even if they do, no satisfactory response is made. 

The Hollyoaks actor Ellie Henry ,who uses a wheelchair, has marked Disability Rights Month by speaking out about her experiences. 

Ellie said: “July is Disability Pride Month which is always a notion I’ve slightly struggled with because I’ve never really been proud to be disabled before. I grew up sporty, daring and never stopped moving, so when disability forced me to live a life sitting down I couldn’t find a single positive. It’s only now, 8+ years later, that I’ve started to find myself again.”

She added: “Asking for basic needs such as ramps, extra time to prepare or not working in certain conditions can be made to feel like you’re asking for the earth. I promise you’re not! I have had to surround myself with people who remind me I’m asking for reasonable adjustments and they should be provided for me. Keep asking for what you need. Always.”

Discrimination against disabled people is sometimes referred to as ‘ableism’, and it can be subtle or overt and even aggressive.

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