To mark their anniversary, a Yorkshire based wheelchair accessible vehicle provider is shining a light on the history of disability in the UK, an often ignored aspect of British history.
Bristol Street Versa has put together a timeline looking at the history of life for people living with disabilities in the UK. Over roughly 230 years, the timeline shows how attitudes towards disability have changed – both for better and for worse – by highlighting key moments in history that have directly affected the lives of people living with disabilities.
The timeline starts in 1786, with the introduction of the Bath Chair, one of the first relatively widely available wheelchairs, and an important step in granting those unable to walk with a degree of independence.
Some of the history Versa have collected doesn’t always make easy reading. Many of the events, laws, and attitudes highlighted in the timeline are shocking when compared to modern sensibilities. Even more shocking is the fact that many of these opinions were the norm not only amongst the general public, but were actively promoted by scientists, politicians, and lawmakers. For example, a 1913 parliamentary act branding mentally and physically disabled people as “idiots and moral defectives” was still in force as recently as the 1950s, only being repealed in 1959.
The timeline also highlights the efforts throughout the years that those with disabilities have gone to fight for changes in laws, attitudes, and opportunities, from the “Justice Not Charity” marches of the 1920s through to the civil rights demonstrations of the 1990s.
Bristol Street Versa also pinpoint developments integral to their business, highlighting the story of the little known Canadian behind the wheelchair accessible vehicle, the three wheeled “Invacar”, and the founding of the Motability scheme.
A spokesperson for Bristol Street Versa commented that “in creating the timeline we wanted to highlight just how far things have come for those living with disabilities, not just in our lifetime but in recent history”.
The full timeline is available to view on the Bristol Street Versa site here: