International Day for Persons with Disabilities – Object of the Fortnight 03/12/2013
PHOTOGRAPHIC DISPLAY POSTER – YEAR OF THE CHILD 1979 Today is International Day for People with Disabilities (IDPD). The theme for this year is ‘Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all’. Over one billion people world-wide (or 15 per cent of the population) have a disability in some shape or form. Today’s commemoration raises awareness of disability and accessibility, and works towards an equal society for those with disabilities. In our collection, as part of a series of photographic posters produced in 1979 for Year of the Child (a United Nations initiative to raise awareness about issues faced by children), one poster declaims “With your help, even the handicapped can do useful work, the gifted can enhance our lives”. The non-politically correctness of using the H-word (which many consider offensive) of this 1970s poster, despite its good intentions, is a reminder of how far attitudes towards those of disabilities have changed. However, some people with disabilities around the world still face physical, social, economic and attitudinal barriers on a daily basis. In the UK, civil rights for disabled people were significantly improved with a landmark act in 1995, the Disability Discrimination Act (replaced by the Equalities Act in 2010). This was introduced to reduce discrimination against disabled people. A revision in October 1999 forced service providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to services for disabled people. This could mean providing physical access on the premises (such as installing handrails, lifts or ramps, or widening paths and doorways to allow wheelchair access), providing material in different formats (such as large print, braille or audio) or training staff in disability awareness. In October 2004, a further amendment forced service providers to make adjustments to the physical features of their premises. However, some critics argue that the phrase ‘reasonable adjustments’ can be used by some as an excuse not to make changes. The law may reduce physical barriers but it doesn’t alter attitudinal, economic and social barriers. Hopefully IDPD will provide a platform to work towards breaking all barriers preventing universal equality. As the Peace Museum is in a grade II listed building (preventing ‘reasonable adjustments’ due to conservation and financial reasons), we are not fully physically accessible. With no lift, we are up 63 steps preventing wheelchair accessibility. However, we strive to be accessible in other ways. We have recently made the exhibition panels throughout the museum available in large print for visitors with visual impairment. We hope in the future we can be physically, intellectually and culturally accessible to all!