Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Disability History Timeline

Disability Timeline Front Cover

A new timeline of disability through the ages documents that, in ancient Aztec society, the royal zoo included a display of disabled people who lived on scraps of food tossed into the cages.

And the idea of 'deserving and undeserving poor' is not new - in the 1300s English law allowed discrimination between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor claiming alms, with specific reference made to disabled people.

Legacy publication

The new Timeline, published by NHS North West's Equalities Team in their last week of operation, aims to document how attitudes towards disability have differed (or not) through the ages and across cultures.

It also marks the contribution of individuals and groups to advancements in health and social care in relation to disability; and it highlights legal and other landmarks in the struggles towards equal rights of disabled people.

You can download a PDF of the timeline booklet here.

A plain text version is also available here for people using text reading software.

Third in the series

This is the third such resource which NHS North West’s Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights team has produced.

In 2008, to mark the 60th anniversary of the NHS, a BME History Timeline was produced to honour the contribution of Black and minority ethnic staff to the health service since its inception.

In 2011, a similar LGBT History Timeline acknowledged how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people contributed to, and challenged, medicine and health care through the ages. I wrote about the online spinoff here.

Shahnaz Ali, Director of Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights at NHS North West, said:

'On the eve of our dissolution as a strategic health authority, we are proud to launch this latest History Timeline which we hope will be a long-lasting and valuable educational tool for the NHS and other public sector bodies.'

The booklet which accompanies the Timeline was published just before the team was disbanded and includes information on:

  • Stereotypes, cultural representations and attitudes
  • Legislation and policy
  • Achievements of the disability rights movement
  • Social advances
  • Achievements in the North West
  • Medical and technical developments
  • Key individuals

Integrated resource

The three timelines have been designed with a similar format.

Each consists of a large public exhibition, made up of around 20 large mounted display boards suitable for erecting in reception areas, in corridors, or at conference events. Stakeholders were involved closely in the research and design in each case.


Each exhibition has been complemented by a short film, made into a DVD and also available online. The films feature both BME / LGBT / Disabled NHS staff and stakeholders, discussing why an understanding of their needs as staff or patients is important.

Finally, each exhibition has also been complemented by a printed booklet (available online in PDF format).

The booklets serve several purposes.

  • Firstly, they contain a lot more material which there simply wasn't room for on the exhibition boards
  • Secondly, they provide something which exhibition visitors can take away to study in more detail.
  • And, lastly, they provide a way of extending the usefulness of the resource online, in conjunction with YouTube versions of the videos.

Booking access

The two existing timeline exhibitions have been in continuous demand since they were first launched. They've not only been used on NHS premises in the North West but have been requested around the country, and used by other public sector organisations such as the Police and Prison Service, by Voluntary Sector Bodies, and Unions.

To extend access to the resources, we previously made online versions available. Unfortunately it wasn't possible to do this for the Disability Timeline in the time available; however this is something that maybe the new NHS organisations will take up.

Bookings for the exhibitions have been managed until now by the NHS North West Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights team. With the disbanding of the team, we have managed to make arrangements for the Greater Manchester Commissioning Support Unit (GMCSU) to assume responsibility.

The GMCSU has also agreed to stage a public launch of the completed Disability History Timeline in Salford on Wednesday 8th May.

Your contact for both bookings and the launch will be the GMCSU's Equality and Diversity Manager, Julia Allen ( In addition to email you can also reach her on either 0161 304 5333 or 07824 599398.


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