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Disability Politics After Covid: ‘Back to Normal’ or Forward to Liberation?

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Online Workshop Friday July 16th, 13:00-17:00 (UK time) register here

Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics, and Ethics, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Brighton

This exciting discussion featuring leading speakers in the Disabled People’s Movement is being coordinated by Luke Beesley, an independent researcher who over the past year was commissioned by WECIL to research and report on the health of the Disabled People’s Organisations sector in Bristol, and Dr Zoe Sutherland, Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities at the University of Brighton.

After a decade of intense assault on the social and civil rights of disabled people in the name of austerity, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a further devaluation of disabled people’s lives. Beyond the horrific mortality rate – the majority of people who died from Covid in Britain were disabled – responses to the pandemic by government and business have reduced access to equipment and services needed to manage impairment and retain autonomy. Legislation enacted at the start of the pandemic has taken away disabled people’s freedom to decide where they live, whether they work, and whether they can control their own grocery shopping. Explicit devaluation of disabled people’s lives, in the form of ‘Do Not Attempt Resuscitation’ orders and clinical guidance that limits access to life-saving treatment, has also become more visible.

At the same time, there has been a resurgence of activism and self-organisation amongst disabled people. New Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have formed to contest their members’ exclusion from decisions about their lives, and existing DPOs have adapted their strategies to better support their communities during the lockdowns.

This online workshop brings together disabled activists from around the country to discuss the specific challenges faced by disabled communities during the Covid pandemic. It poses the question of how the pandemic might inform a broader analysis of disability in the 21st Century and point to strategies for moving forward.

Live BSL interpretation and on-screen transcription will be available at the workshop. If you have any further access needs for online workshops or meetings, please contact


Sian Vasey, Judy Hunt and Jane Campbel sitting next to each other
Photo Credit Disability News Service

Judy Hunt: Author of No Limits. The Disabled People’s Movement – a Radical History (2019); former member of the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS)

Martin Pagel: Author of On Our Own Behalf – An History of Disabled People’s Self Organisation (1986); member of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP); former editor of Coalition

Klint Durham: An activist with Positive Disability Action in Redcar and Cleveland (PDA)

Ellen Clifford
Photo Credit BBC

Ellen Clifford: Author of The War on Disabled People: Capitalism, Welfare, and the Making of a Human Catastrophe (2020) and member of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)

Bob Williams-Findlay: Author of More Than a Left Foot (2020); member of DPAC and the Disabled People’s Caucus in Left Unity; former Chair of the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People (BCODP)

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