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TX: 04.08.04 - TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF DISABILITY NOW - WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED IN THE LAST 20 YEARS? 

PRESENTER: WINIFRED ROBINSON
THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT.  BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

ROBINSON

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the newspaper Disability Now . Before it came on the scene there were lots of newsletters and magazines sent out by charities to their members and supporters. They concentrated on soft news and on features, one of them was Spastics News published by what was then called the Spastics Society. But in 1984 the society handed editorial control to a dedicated team of journalists and the name changed to Disability Now . Since then circulation has grown so that the paper now has 60,000 readers and it's the leading publication for people with disabilities. Rachel Hurst is the director of Disability Awareness in Action, she's a leading disability rights campaigner and she's been a reader of Disability Now since its launch. 

HURST

That was an interesting time - 1984 - because a lot was actually going on but people didn't know about it and that's why Disability Now was so important because it began to tell people about it. The disability movement in this country was very new but centres for independent living had started up and the GLC had started promoted Dial-a-Ride and so had other large cities, producing some form of transportation. Because before then I mean we were really, really isolated and cut off and the concept that disabled people should be part of the community was not acknowledged. But it needed us to come together and get out on those streets, however inaccessible they were, to show the public. And it was useful to have those attempts reported in DN. 

ROBINSON

And from a personal point of view what would you say were the most significant changes in your own life over this period of 20 years? 

HURST

Well I regret to say that I don't think there have been any really significant changes except for the recognition of disability within the social model and as a rights issue. 

ROBINSON

When you say within the social model what do you mean? 

HURST

That disability isn't about our impairment it's about how society reacts to people with impairments. 

ROBINSON

And you feel that that view's been widely accepted over that period? 

HURST

I think there is an acceptance, it's very interesting the latest report by the select committee on the Disability Discrimination Bill does actually say that the definition of disability should be based on the social model and that's an enormous step forward. 

ROBINSON

If you visit the offices of any great publication you usually have framed pictures of the great front pages - the assassination of President Kennedy, Aberfan, the death of John Lennon - are there front pages of Disability Now  that come to your mind when you think about your life over the past 20 years? 

HURST

That's an interesting question. I think perhaps the things that I found most interesting in Disability Now were not on the front pages, they were more often than not inside. 

ROBINSON

What kind of things? 

HURST

The things reporting on what was happening in Europe , reporting what was happening about the Disability Discrimination Act. I think when they were reporting about the benefits consortium and how we stood on Westminster Bridge and many of the pictures of the very many rallies and demonstrations that we've had I think those have been the really good points. 

ROBINSON

If you look at some of the major milestones in achieving some kind of equality for people with disabilities over the last 20 years how far do you think Disability Now has played a part in any of that? 

HURST

I think that's one of the criticisms perhaps one could lay at its door is that it hasn't played a part - it's reported. Except for some campaigns like Bay Watch - making sure people don't use disabled bays outside big stores. 

ROBINSON

If you had to cast your mind forward to the next 20 years and think of a front page that would encompass what will be the big battle of the future what would you say it would be? 

HURST

I would like a picture of whoever is prime minister saying that they're committed to ending institutional disable-ism. I'd like a picture of a graph showing how disabled people have got through the glass ceiling, just like women who still don't get equality with pay and they still aren't in the establishment, I think I need to see disabled people up there too. And I think I want to see an end to late abortion. 

ROBINSON

The discussion of the right to life for people with disabilities is one that I think it's fair to say is not aired a great deal in the mainstream press, is it aired a great deal in Disability Now

HURST

No it hasn't been. I'm not really blaming Disability Now because I don't think that until - in the last year or so that disabled people themselves have really faced up to what is happening. But the disability movement has been working on this for a long time and the British Council of Disabled People, particularly, has done a lot of work through conferences, the production of training manuals and actually training in bioethics, so that disabled people can understand what's happening to them. But it's not a nice thing for disabled individuals to have to face up to. It isn't very nice to have to acknowledge to yourself that people really - however nice they may be - don't actually see you as a member of the human race. 

ROBINSON

Rachel Hurst.

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