Disability History Month

UK Disability History month (UKDHM) formally takes place between 22 November and 22 December each year, though many events and activities take place outside this time slot. It is supported by more than 100 organisations, including the NUT, and celebrates the lives and achievements of disabled people. Schools are encouraged to hold awareness raising activities about disability during the month of December.

The UKDHM theme  for 2017 is ‘Disability and Art'

The aim of the 2017  theme  is to encourage museums, libraries, councils, schools, colleges and other workplaces and trade unions to celebrate the relationship between artists and disability. 

A date for your diary – A   Day Conference to discuss how new resources can be used for schools and colleges as part of this year’s UKDHM. This will take place on Saturday the 21st October . Book your place by using the link on the flyer which can be found here. It will take place at NUT headquarters from 10.30 to 4.30.’

The purposes of UK Disability History Month are:

  • to raise awareness of the unequal position of disabled people in society and to advocate disability equality;
  • to develop an understanding of the historical roots of this inequality; and
  • to highlight the significance of disabled people’s struggles for equality, inclusion and the ‘social model’ of disability.

The key focus of the month is :

To examine the way disabled people were portrayed in film, media, literature, art, photographs, advertising and journalism in past periods and now.

UK Disability History Month Resources: What is UKDHM?

UKDHM resources are available from:

to view the themes within the teaching resources. The appendices mentioned throughout the materials are available here.

All (c) Richard Rieser and free to reproduce

It is important for teachers to be familiar with the traditional, medical and social models of disability so they should look at:

Action by Disabled People

In 1992, the United Nations proclaimed 3 December as International Day of Disabled Persons. The principles of the day are to involve, organise, celebrate and take action. It is an ideal opportunity to commemorate how disabled people have, through self-organisation, their trade unions and by political action, not only challenged their civil, social and employment rights but perceptions and attitudes.

Some parts of the world have still to respond to the basic needs of disabled people whether that be by making transport and buildings more accessible or providing information in easy read format. The fundamental rights and needs of many disabled people are denied across the globe. Millions of disabled people are excluded from activities which non-disabled people take for granted.

In the UK, the campaign for equal rights for disabled people is not over. It is necessary to be vigilant in protecting what has been won. The month of December is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements which disabled people have made in politics, legislation, the arts and in the ever increasing empowerment and visibility of disabled people.

Disability History Month can create space to:

  • celebrate the lives of disabled people;
  • challenge disablism; and
  • empower disabled students and teachers.

Disabled Teachers: Facts and Figures at a Glance

  • Nearly half of disabled teachers commented in an NUT survey that they were not confident in disclosing their disability or health condition when applying for a new job.
  • One in three disabled teachers said that they would definitely not disclose a disability or health condition when applying for a job for fear of discrimination or not getting the job.
  • A high level of harassment, negative stereotyping and adverse reaction is reported by disabled teachers wishing to remain in the workplace. NUT research shows that disabled teachers routinely experience barriers to applying for new jobs, remaining in existing jobs, seeking promotion or defending themselves from capability proceedings.
  • One out of three disabled teachers who had left teaching reported that they had left the profession because teaching was too tiring, stressful and difficult an occupation with their disability/health condition.
  • One in five of the disabled teachers in the NUT survey commented that they believed their head/governing body would be relieved if they resigned.


Changing Attitudes

There is potential for Disability History Month to improve outcomes for disabled teachers, to reduce levels of harassment and discrimination, and to highlight the less favourable treatment experienced currently by some disabled teachers in schools in England and Wales.

Schools can use Disability History Month as an opportunity to consider the outcomes in their school for disabled pupils and disabled staff by adopting a whole school approach to promoting disability equality.

The NUT believes that the employment policies and practices of schools need to be reviewed in relation to disabled teachers. At present there is very little understanding of who disabled teachers are, what they are entitled to, and how they are faring in their workplace.

It is not acceptable that disabled teachers are pressured into retirement, forced to hide their impairment status to obtain jobs, denied TLRs or harassed and bullied by employers.

One of the obstacles to sharing good practice remains the difficulty in communicating the correct understanding of the very broad definition of disability within the legislation. Many thousands of teachers have no idea that they are disabled within the definition in the law.

The NUT urges schools to use Disability History Month to highlight the history of disabled people, the achievements and struggle of the disabled people’s movement, and the impact of widespread negative stereotypes on disabled people. Many disabled people report experiencing hate crime and often the perpetrators are school aged pupils.

There are excellent resources available which can allow teachers to use the curriculum to address these issues (see below).

For more information, visit: http://ukdhm.org



These materials can be used during UKDHM – useful film extracts can also be found at: http://ukdhm.org/ukdhm-2015-filmography/
Portrayal of Disability PowerPoint, NUT Disability Conference quiz and Answers.

Implementing the Disability Discrimination Act in schools and early years settings, DES, 2006, Ref 0160-2006 DOC-END. To order, phone 0845 6022260 (FREE)

Disability Imagery? – A teaching guide to disability and moving image media: www.bfi.org.uk/education

www.equalityhumanrights.com – contains equality video with disabled people talking about what equality means to them.

‘TALK’ is an award winning 12 minute film which challenges misconceptions about disability in an entertaining way (watch online or order your copy at: www.equalityhumanrights.com).

Make sure that you have registered as disabled on your membership record. You can do this here.