Tag Archives: Disability history

Disability History Month 2017

To mark Disability History Month this year we’re looking at famous disabled artists who used their art to express What I Need To Say

Michelangelo

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

Five years before his death Michelangelo was diagnosed with kidney stones. As a result, art historians have often focused on that and the possible repetition of kidney shaped designs in his work.

However, more recently, the debate has been around whether he also had gout or arthritis and if his work as a painter and sculptor exacerbated or eased his condition.  Portraits of the artist especially those showing his hands have been pored over to determine which condition he had. Michelangelo also included himself as an old man in several of his later works which has provided additional evidence for this debate.

Pietà bandini by Michaelangelo
Pietà bandini by Michaelangelo

Francisco Goya

“Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters.”

Goya is often referred to as the last of the old masters and the first of the moderns. In 1793 he developed a severe but unidentified illness which left him deaf. After this, his work  – which had been characterised by portraits of society figures and tapestry designs – began to reflect a darker more pessimistic outlook. His portraits  came close to caricatures reflecting what Goya really saw rather than how his subjects might want to see themselves.

For a period towards the end of his life he lived an almost hermit-like existence in a farmhouse outside Madrid where he produced the famous Black Paintings – dark, sometimes gruesome murals painted in oils directly on the walls.

Francisco de Goya - Tio Paquete (oil on canvas, c.1820)
Francisco de Goya – Tio Paquete (oil on canvas, c.1820)

Frida Kahlo

“Feet, what do I need them for
If I have wings to fly.”

Frida Kahlo is probably best known as a feminist icon, but did you know she was also a disabled person? Kahlo was born with spina bifida, and after contracting Polio as a child was left with her right leg being thinner than her left. Following a severe car accident, Kahlo began painting self-portraits which depicted her impairments in a fearless way.

Frida Kahlo's 1939 oil painting “The Two Fridas.”
Frida Kahlo’s 1939 oil painting “The Two Fridas.”

Paul Klee

“A line is a dot that went for a walk.”

Klee was a German artist active during the first half of the twentieth century. As a child he had been a musical prodigy but as an adult his focused on his art. His theories and writing on the theory of colour were very influential and he taught with Kandinsky at the Bauhaus School of art.  His own work reflected a dry sense of humour as well as a sometimes childlike perspective.

One of his most productive periods was during the early 1930s but at the same time he was persecuted by the Nazis and forced to leave German. It was also during this time that he started to show the symptoms of scleroderma. It limited his output for a time until he modified his painting style to create more bold designs with his alternating moods making the paintings lighter or darker.

Klee’s scleroderma was only diagnosed ten years after his death in 1940 but World Scleroderma day is now on June 29, the date of his death.

Paul Klee Halme 1938
Paul Klee Halme 1938

Henri Matisse

“I have always tried to hide my efforts and wished my works to have the light joyousness of springtime, which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost me….”

Henri Matisse was one of the most innovative painters of the twentieth century. In 1941 he almost died from cancer, and after three months in recovery he became a wheelchair user. Matisse credits this period of his life with reenergizing him, even referring to the last 14 years of his life as “une seconde vie,” or his second life.

He adapted his artistic methods to suit life in a wheelchair, making artwork out of coloured paper shapes. You may have seen this work in the exhibition The Cut-Outs which was featured in the Tate Modern in 2014.

La Perruche et la Sirene by Henri Matisse 1952
La Perruche et la Sirene by Henri Matisse 1952

Yinka Shonibare, MBE

“Your head goes crazy if you pursue what ifs.”

Yinka Shonibare is a British conceptual artist with Transverse Myelitis, which paralyses one side of his body. Shonibare uses assistants to make work under his direction, and is famed for exploring cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation.

In 2004 he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize for his Double Dutch exhibition, and was awarded an MBE in the same year.

Nelson's Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare
Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare

Stephen Wiltshire

“Do the best you can and never stop.”

Wiltshire is an autistic savant and world renowned architectural artist. He learned to speak at nine, and by the age of ten began drawing detailed sketches of London landmarks. Recently, Wilshire created an eighteen foot wide panoramic landscape of the skyline of New York City, after only viewing it once during a twenty minute helicopter ride. The Stephen Wiltshire gallery can be found in Pall Mall, London.

Venice by Stephen Wiltshire MBE
Venice by Stephen Wiltshire MBE

Learn more about our What I need to Say campaign 

Scope’s 2014 highlights

2014 has been a really exciting year for Scope – full of awkward, nostalgic, sexy and some just Breaking Bad moments. We’ve rounded up a selection of just a few of the most memorable. Let’s hope 2015 is just as eventful!

Name change

We celebrated 20 years since we changed our name
from The Spastics Society to Scope, with a Parliamentary reception. We also looked at how life has changed for disabled people in that time.

The extra costs of disability

The Price is Wrong game show bannerCan an adapted BMX for a disabled child really cost four times the amount of the average child’s bike? Well yes, it can – and that kind of shocking fact is why you all got so involved with our Price is Wrong campaign and 550 challenge, to raise awareness of the extra costs that disabled people and their families face for everyday items.

Top films

Man bending over to talk to a wheelchair userOur End the Awkward adverts featuring Alex Brooker got almost 10 million views! They helped us to raise awareness of the fact that 2/3 people feel awkward when talking to a disabled person, mostly because they don’t want to offend or are scared of coming across as patronising. But we can all get over it!

Disabled model taking off his clothes in Scope charity shopThis year, our Strip for Scope film shocked everyone with a cheeky play on the sexy Levi’s Launderette advert, featuring disabled model, Jack Eyers. It was our most successful stock campaign –  we received over 1.2 million donated items to our shops.

We also created a film featuring disabled people talking about what the social model of disability means to them, the confidence and liberation it gives them – and how it can encourage everyone to think differently about what an inclusive society really looks like.

Face 2 Face befrienders

Two parents talking in a kitchen over a cup of teaWe were delighted to open new Face 2 Face befriending services in Oxford, Coventry, Lewisham, and three London locations – Islington, Waltham Forest and Redbridge, and Newham and Tower Hamlets. It means loads more parents with disabled children can get the vital emotional support they need, so they don’t feel like they have to cope alone.

Support and information

Our helpline staff have expanded on their lead roles in specialist areas, so they can give more thorough advice to people who need it, and share their knowledge within the team. The areas cover cerebral palsy, social care, welfare benefits, finance and housing, disability equipment and provision, early years, employment, and special educational needs. We also launched a new online community to reach even more people.

Get on your bike

Not only did over 4,000 people take up an events challenge for Scope this year, but we were thrilled to find out that we’ll be the official charity partner of the Prudential RideLondon–Surrey 100 for 2015. It’s worth a whopping £315,000 to Scope and means we have over 600 places for Scope participants.

New friendsRJ Mitte posing for a photo with a young disabled girl in wheelchair

And last but not least, we were very chuffed to welcome RJ Mitte, aka Walt Junior from the hit US drama Breaking Bad to Scope. He has cerebral palsy, but he’s never let it hold him back. He spoke to some young disabled people who are currently on our employment course, First Impressions, First Experiences, to tell them how he started his career.

What have we missed? If you’re part of Scope – what have been the highlights of your year?

UK Disability History Month: war and impairment

1958 Adana printing machine (2)We’re in the midst of UK Disability History Month, which runs until 22 December. This year’s theme is war and impairment. To mark this, here’s an edited extract from Can You Manage Stares?, where Bill Hargreaves recalls his wartime work from running his father’s soap factory to entertaining the troops…

Soap maker

On Friday 13 December 1940, papers came from the Government, requisitioning the factory premises. The Luftwaffe had got to know where all the major aircraft factories in Britain were and so they were dispersed to other sites. One of these was my small soap works where they wanted to build Spitfire wings. We were told we had six weeks to get out of that factory and if we weren’t out they would come and forcibly remove all the machinery.

For six weeks I found myself having to cope with staff I had never had to cope with in my life, to pay them, to give them instructions, to make the soap, to fill orders, to take the orders, to see things were delivered on time and all this sort of responsibility at the age of 21.

The soap works duly closed. There was nowhere else to go, so suddenly I was out of work. Now my stepmother, to be fair to her, fought tooth and nail for me. She said, “You cannot take my son’s factory away. He is disabled. There would be nothing else for him to do.” “We can’t help that,” they said, “There is a war on.” And that was the end of my career as a soapmaker.

Counting nuts and bolts

My father took me to the nearest labour exchange but the manager said that there was nothing that he could offer. I was asked to take a job in the bus garage across the road, which had also been requisitioned. They were also making Spitfire wings and I was asked to go into the stores and sort out nuts and bolts. That’s all they thought I was fit for! I soon became very discontented with my lot.

In the end I created such a fuss about counting bolts and nuts that they said, “The only place for you is Birmingham,” but the bombs were dropping there and so many people had been killed. I said, “I couldn’t care less. I want to go where the action is.”

I obtained a post as a clerk with Vickers Armstrong at the great  aircraft factory in Erdington, where they produced 20 Spitfires a week and 40 Lancaster bombers a month.

I could not write sufficiently well and so they gave me a typewriter, which I was able to manage using two fingers. During the war the able-bodied in industry became very scarce indeed, and this gave disabled people like me a chance. As a result my employers decided to use my other skills, and I was promoted to head of a section dealing with the dissemination of modifications to Spitfire fighters and Lancaster bombers.

Entertaining the troops

I channelled all my energies into ventriloquism. During the evenings I was asked by the YMCA Travelling Theatre to go out and entertain troops in lonely gun sites throughout the Midlands area.

Most nights I used to finish work, go into the men’s cloakroom, change into a dress suit, white tie and tails, and put on stage make-up. The theatre was a large, specially adapted furniture van. When you let the side down, there was a stage with footlights and all the rest of it.  They had a piano and everything. We used to travel to a gun site, set up stage and start. Several times aircraft came overhead, the air raid sirens and the klaxon horns went and the audiences disappeared! There I was in mid-sentence suddenly without an audience and having to dive for cover myself.

I was finding myself through ventriloquism. People were seeing me as a ventriloquist and not as a disabled person. That was the making of me, really. That got me into society because I found something I could do better than most people. This was the key. I could shine. I found that my disability didn’t matter.

Can You Manage Stares? by Bill Hargreaves is available as an ebook. 

Disability History Month 2013

Post from Alice Maynard, Chair of Scope

Disability History Month begins this week. Recently a fantastic and timely BBC documentary charted some of the big milestones in the struggle for independent living.

It’s clear society’s attitudes to disability have come a long, long way.

But it wouldn’t have happened had disabled people, like Paul Hunt, who led a care home revolt and became one of the Movement’s founding fathers, not looked around and said “this isn’t good enough”.

It’s got me wondering if this month could go down in disability history.

Hear me out…

Columnist Frances Ryan recently did a great job of summing up what life is like if you’re disabled in 2013. For too many people it’s a real struggle to live independently.

But could November 2013 go down as the month when we once again made our voices
heard?

At the beginning of the month five disabled activists waited nervously outside the court of appeal for the outcome of their challenge to the way the Government has gone about closing the Independent Living Fund. They won.

Following on from Labour’s promise to scrap the bedroom tax and news that the Government have had to slow down the roll-out of personal independence payment, have we hit a point when it’s dawning on the public that with living costs spiralling and incomes dropping that the answer to disabled people’s living standards crisis isn’t to take away financial support?

Also this month MPs are preparing to debate the Care Bill. There are positive moves in the bill – the role of advocates is now enshrined – but plans to restrict council-funded support to only those with the highest need, will force too many disabled people to have to pay for their own support to live independently. At a time when disabled people are struggling to make ends meet, that is support they simply can’t afford.

Disabled people have for too long sat outside a debate that focused on making sure middle England baby boomers didn’t have to sell their homes to pay for their parents’ care. But again it feels like disabled people are starting to make their voices heard. With disability now a mainstay in the social care debate, could the Government be forced to re-think its plans and genuinely make history by guaranteeing council-funded independent living support for everyone that needs it?

Making sure disabled people can get support is one side of the coin. The other is what that support looks like. Does it genuinely promote independent living?

This is the month that we at Scope tackled this question head on. Again disabled people’s voices have played a big part. For a long time activists have been urging Scope to transform its more old-fashioned residential homes. Not long ago they protested outside our offices.

This month we begin work on proposals to close or significantly change 11 care homes. It’s the right thing to do. But we also need to do it the right way, which means making sure disabled people who live in these homes have choice and control over where they live in the future. I don’t think we’ve done anything radical. But hopefully we’ve given the sector a bit of a jolt.

The message for Disability History Month 2013 is ‘Celebrating our struggle for independent living: no return to institutions or isolation’. Let’s remember some big milestones. Let’s not forget that we have a long way to go. But let’s be optimistic – disabled people continue to speak out and continue to make society think differently.

UK Disability History Month runs from 22 November to 22 December.
Visit the UK Disability History Month website