Inspirational Diversity Champion of the Month – December 2019

3 December is International Day of Persons with Disabilities and with this in mind we have chosen Mike Oliver as our Inspirational Diversity Champion of the Month. Sadly Mike died in March following a short illness and this is the first time we have had a posthumous Champion. 

Mike was a Professor Emeritus of Disability Studies at the University of Greenwich who spoke, wrote and published books including Understanding Disability, The Politics of Disablement and The New Politics of Disablement.

He was the first Professor of Disability Studies and was best known as the person who named and popularised the concept of the ‘social model’ of disability which states that it is the way society is organised which is disabling, not a person’s impairments or medical diagnosis.

In his work he comprehensively explained that society is the disability not the individual and goes on to demonstrate that by changing society by removing disabling barriers, disability could be minimised to the point of eradication. As Mike once described it, this different approach to disability: “changed it from being a medical issue to being a human rights issue.”

Countless change-makers who have shaped the legislation, policies, and world which exists today credit him and the social model as being their ‘lightbulb moment’. The initial concept was not his own creation: the principles were laid out in a 1976 pamphlet produced by the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Discrimination. However, Mike developed the term and popularised it with his 1983 book Social Work With Disabled People.

The book was originally written as course materials for healthcare professionals Mike was training, but it came out at a fortuitous time for the growing disability rights movement. The social model gave campaigners the framework to address disability discrimination, and the concept became a tool to address underlying assumptions.

Mike is remembered as the father of the social model, the person who founded disability studies as an academic discipline, and the man who ignited a movement and changed the lives of millions of disabled people around the globe.

  To find out more about International Day of Persons with Disabilities see here

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