Chapter

Disability activism and the struggle for independent living

Colin Barnes and Geof Mercer

in Independent futures

Published by Policy Press

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9781861347183
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447302599 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1332/policypress/9781861347183.003.0003
Disability activism and the struggle for independent living

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Through the last quarter of the 20th century, disabled people developed a remarkable challenge to the dominant understanding of disability. This has involved the politicisation of disability with the setting up of many new grass-roots organizations around the country, the involvement of an increasing number of disabled people in campaigning activities, and the production of a crucial body of writings by disabled people and their allies advancing a socio-political analysis of disability. This chapter begins by examining the emergence of this new disability politics, with specific reference to the goal of ‘independent living’, and the development of user-led or user-controlled organizations and services. Second, it examines the specific impact on the new disability politics in Britain of a radical shift from a medical to a social model of disability — pioneered by organizations of disabled people. This stressed the social and environmental barriers to the inclusion of people with accredited impairments. The chapter's other sections detail the criticism by disabled people of existing, mainstream services for disabled people, and then finally, they trace specific initiatives by disabled activists to pioneer more participatory and collaborative approaches to service support and assistance, particularly user-led organizations.

Keywords: disabled people; politicisation; disability politics; independent living; user-controlled organizations

Chapter.  7499 words. 

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