THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

20 August 2019

Practical and Reasonable – A history of the Association of Disabled Professionals

The Archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals (Add MS 89385) is now available to research in the Manuscripts Reading Room.  To celebrate the release of this archive, Diana Twitchin, a member and author of a history of the association, writes about the establishment and importance of it.

Publications on disability from the archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals Publications on disability from the archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals (Add MS 89385) Noc

The Association of Disabled Professionals (ADP) grew out of the 1960s.  It was one of the first organisations managed entirely by disabled people and sought to challenge and change age-old perceptions of disability.

The ADP’s inaugural meeting identified the issues facing disabled students in achieving their full potential through lack of access to higher education and on to university.  Similar issues faced those professionals who, having acquired a disability, were demoted at work, or were not permitted to return to their job, their disability being used to dismiss them.  Attitudes concerning disability within the education and university systems raised a spate of personal experiences from participants highlighting the urgent need for staff training at all levels.  The historical support systems for disabled people, keeping disabled people ‘out of sight, out of mind’ contributed to general ignorance on issues regarding them.  ADP deplored the fact that disabled people were not themselves consulted about their requirements.

ADP committed itself to raising awareness within government, industrial and charitable organizations around issues concerning general and higher education.  They would work with other groups on other issues affecting disabled people, pooling resources to help increase awareness and get results.  This included overseeing government bills, lobbying and commenting on them at Committee stage and encouraging the inclusion of disability issues where relevant.

Publications on disability from the archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals Publications on disability from the archive of the Association of Disabled Professionals (Add MS 89385) Noc

The Association also set up a membership network to assist disabled people seeking entrance to school or university; to assist those with work issues; to inform ADP of good and bad practice that they encountered; and to support ADP in collecting facts and information that would be used to inform and influence policy makers and service planners.

All those who worked for ADP were unpaid volunteers assisted by a paid part-time secretary.  It remained a small organisation working from 1971 to 2011, when it was transferred to the Vassel Trust.  In 1995, the Disability Discrimination Act was made into law and received Royal Assent in November that year.  This was repealed and replaced with the Equality Act in 2010.

I was starting from two points when writing the history of the Association of Disabled Professionals (ADP): my own disability and issues that arose during my working life and the journey for all disabled people over the last 60 years.  Today’s generation of disabled people have a very different perspective to the disabled individuals of the 1960s/70s who fought for change that would eventually lead to anti-discrimination legislation.

In producing a history of ADP, I have had a walk through time recalling so many colleagues and the issues we were involved with.

Diana Twitchin (née Irish)