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Disability Campaigners

Sue MacGregor reunites five people who experienced a long and bitter struggle for historic disability discrimination rights.

Sue MacGregor reunites five people who experienced a long and bitter struggle for historic disability discrimination rights.

Kept apart from other children in stiflingly boring 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 1960s and 1970s.

Routinely turned away from cafes for "putting other customers off" and cinemas for being "a fire hazard", 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. The reportt highlighted the case of a draughtsman whose job offer was withdrawn because he had a prosthetic leg.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.

Joining Sue around the table to look back on 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!

Producer: Karen Pirie
Series Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

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43 minutes

Last on

Fri 15 Apr 2016 09:00

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