Speaking Up For Disability

Speaking Up For Disability LogoDisabled people living in West Sussex now have the chance to tell their own story, thanks to a £49,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).  Speaking up for Disability is managed by registered charity Independent Living Association.

This is a two year community history project recording and sharing the stories, experiences, achievements and struggles of disabled people in West Sussex from the 1940’s to the present day.  The project does not seek to present a definitive history of disability, but rather to hear from many people, telling their own stories in their own words.  In addition to a website, there will also be an exhibition and unique archive of materials that will capture the hidden area of history in the county.

The hidden histories of disabled people can now be explored.  Experiences of early life, school, work, families, the views of health professionals, and how relationships have altered will all be researched.  Volunteer interviewers will give disabled people the opportunity to record their own views and in so doing will build up a unique archive of first-hand accounts.  Working with the West Sussex Records Office, those taking part will create a lasting legacy for future researchers, professionals and the general public.

The resulting archive will have a fully searchable online catalogue as well as an online education pack for teachers.  Information gathered through research will be used to create a portable display.  This display will be made available to other organisations throughout the county to help raise general awareness about disability.

There are few records in existence that look at disability from the viewpoint of disabled people themselves because historical records tend to have been written by hospitals, institutions and other care providers, so this project is a groundbreaking way to tell those stories.

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East England, said: “This project helps to redress the balance by providing a personal insight into the experiences and opinions of disabled people in West Sussex.  At last, their voices will be heard.”

Speaking Up for Disability is led by a Project Team comprising Nicola Benge, the project Coordinator, and a group of volunteers.  Please come and join us!  We are always looking for new volunteers across West Sussex who are interested in disability history and have some time to give.

Volunteers are needed to:

  • Record interviews with disabled people across the county
  • Undertake research in the West Sussex Records Office
  • Update the website
  • Plan the exhibition
  • Run reminiscence or life writing sessions
  • Support our Key Stage 3 Educational Resource Pack

If you are interested, get in touch with the ILA office on 01903 219482 ex218 or email nicola.benge@ilawestsussex.org