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Disability History Month 2021

Disability History Month is an annual, month-long observance of the history of the disability rights movement and commemoration of the achievements of disabled people, that occurs in some places.

Taking place between 18th November and 20th December every year, this year’s themes include:

  • Disability & Hidden Impairment
  • Disability Sex & Relationships

The idea behind UK Disability History Month is to bring awareness and change the attitude towards disabled individuals, and to ultimately achieve equality. We live in a diverse society and as a part of our identities, disabilities are something that we should talk about, explore in-depth and recognise.

There are more than 14 million people with disabilities in the UK, 8% of them are children, and almost 20% of them are of working age (Scope,2021). But did you know that 80% of disabled people have hidden disabilities (or non-visible conditions)? For example, 3-4% of the UK population has ADHD, but millions of cases are left undiagnosed. Many young women today are underdiagnosed or diagnosed wrongly with anxiety or depression, but in fact they could have ADHD. The reason behind this is that most of the research is done with men and women are often not included. Living with an underlying hidden condition could have its strengths and weaknesses, but it needs to be identified and the right approach to be taken.

The greatest obstacles towards employees and everyone today talking about disability at work is the persistent stigma around it, with there being many instances when disabilities are hidden and not easily recognisable, which results in employees feeling that they would have less job security and stability should they choose to divulge. That’s especially true for conditions that involve chronic pain and fatigue, or disabilities such as bipolar disorder (Ryan, 2017). However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there is hope. As we the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that we can design more flexibility around work, we can create different working patterns and improve the ways in which we work, hire and retain employees.

For example, in terms of invisible disabilities, research shows that individuals with autism are more comfortable doing a video interview rather than face to face one, as they would have less distractions and more time to elaborate their answers in a more suited way. Flexible hours or working from home have been tested already over the last couple of years, so we are one step closer to creating workplace environments that could be more accommodating.

The world is changing every day, every minute, every second. Therefore, we should learn how to embrace change and be proactive towards it, rather than being reactive. Now it is time to celebrate differences in a unique way that offers greater opportunity and bridges the gaps of what we wish to achieve and what we are today. For Disability History Month 2021 we need to look beneath the surface and see what is underneath.

For more information on Disability History Month, please visit: https://ukdhm.org/