Disability History Month plays an important part in highlighting and remembering the people of the past, present and future who have disabilities.
Disability History Month plays an important part in highlighting and remembering the people of the past, present and future who have disabilities. It shouldn’t be seen as an activity to tick the equality, diversity and inclusion box, and to say that you are complying with the law and legislation.
Disability History Month can be a very powerful instrument to inspire the next generation of people to come. There are plenty of notable figures both past and present who have disabilities who have been inspirational and have changed the world that we live in. One example is Steven Hawking (1942 – 2018) an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who was diagnosed with a rare early-onset, slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease which gradually paralysed him. Hawking is best known for his theories on black holes and the origin of the universe. He was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics This would not have been possible if it were not for Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and his theory of relativity. Based on anecdotal evidence, it is alleged that Einstein may have had dyslexia and was neurodivergent.
Disability History Month can be used as a reflection and reminder to appreciate the progress that society has made towards disabilities. It can be used as inspiration to say, ‘if they can achieve that, then so can I’. It can be used to empower individuals to fight for change and justice to create a more inclusive world.
From personal experience, I was misdiagnosed by a psychiatrist with bi-polar disorder for 11 years. I had been put on the wrong medication which made me a completely different person. Looking back on that period, I can only say that it felt like a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde situation. I was then diagnosed with ADHD after starting at the University of Derby and undergoing a dyslexia test. This led me to be put on the right medication and working towards an autism diagnosis.
When I first came to university, I was a person who was scared of his own shadow, easily frightened, afraid to speak out after being a victim of domestic abuse, and almost a complete agoraphobe. It wasn’t until I was inspired by a guest speaker in one of my lectures who also had disabilities, that I was brought out of my shell.
It was with this a spark lit within me. Combined with support and reassurance from fellow students on my course that I was more capable of things than I thought, this pushed me out of my shell and helped me to gain confidence daily to then become what I am today. Today, I am the Student Officer for Disability Awareness serving for a second year, a student who helped get e-text book trial provisions for first year students and a Student Trustee of the University of Derby Union of Students as well as supporting other people in court and having the confidence to push back against the negativity of having seen and unseen disabilities.
I would not have been able to do this without being inspired by those who came before me, and this allows me to hopefully be an inspiration for those to come. As I graduate, I hope to pass on that inspiration and confidence to those who are yet to follow in my footsteps as a Student Officer. I want to push the barriers and make bigger changes in the future to come.