UK Disability History Month (16th November 2022 to 16th December 2022) is an annual event focusing on the history of disabled people's struggle for equality and human rights. This month strives to raise awareness to secure equal rights for all people with disabilities, whether seen or hidden.
Disabilities are not just the stereotypical man on a wheelchair as the logo you see on public toilets - it can be anything varying from chronic neurological illness to autism; the spectrum is vast. Roughly 7-8% of the Imperial student body is disabled. Using this statistic, I want you to consider how many people around you in your day-to-day that may have a disability, some of whom may not even seem to be the case. Be kind and compassionate to one another; you may not necessarily know what someone else is going through.
This year, the topic for Disability History Month is 'Disability, Health and Well-Being'. Due to the consequences of the pandemic, the rights of disabled people have become incredibly fragile. Although the pandemic is no longer as prevalent in the UK, many still face its repercussions. Barriers that compromise the health of disabled people are no longer acted upon due to pandemic restrictions and medical staff shortages. Mental health issues are arising due to the stress from the pandemic.
I want to bring up the two models of disability: social and medical. The social model views ways to remove restricting barriers for disabled people, which allows them to be seen as equals in society, whereas the latter labels people as their impairment as the cause of their hindered day-to-day life. I am diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a hidden chronic pain disability. My diagnosis is not the first thing I introduce myself to other people since it does not fully define me; it is a part of me that I must live with. The medical model forces a label on me as not normal, compared to the social model encouraging others to view me as myself – the one who loves creative makeup, classical singing, theatre, chemistry, and so much more.
As your Disabilities Officer, I want to unify the disabled student body of Imperial. One of my first steps for engagement is to host a social event for the disabilities network. This event will take place on 23rd November from 12-2pm at Skempton Building 301 – I look forward to meeting some of you there! This month, I will also be active on our social media account on Instagram @icudisabilitiesnetwork to educate about various disabilities and allow disabled students to have a platform to spotlight themselves through takeovers and more.
For any disabled student reading, you are so strong, and I am proud of your perseverance. If there is ever any change of symptoms or condition, or if you would like to report your diagnosis to the university, please don't hesitate to contact the Disability Advisory Service. If your condition significantly affects your academics at any given time, I would suggest applying for mitigating circumstances within your department.
Disabilities are just a matter of perception. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about anything!