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Baroness Jane Campbell's Story 

To mark our 30th anniversary, we’re releasing 30 stories from wheelchair users across our history.

This ambitious and historic project will result in stories being archived as part of the The British Library Sound Archives ensuring that the life experiences of wheelchair users today are captured forever..With thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and The British Library for their support.

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“A lot of people today say, ‘Oh things are terrible, I can’t get into my local train station. And I think, ‘My god, that was my daily experience’. I couldn’t go to the cinema because I was told I was a fire risk. 

In her interview, campaigner and parliamentarian, Baroness Jane Campbell, shares her personal journey through the birth of the disability movement in the UK from its emergence in the 1960s and 1970s, through to the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act. She describes how the shift really came through the coming together of intellectuals with their ideas, disabled people becoming more educated and society becoming more progressive.

 Baroness Jane Campbell takes us through her personal activist journey from being an activist in the campaign for women’s Equality when “Younger people started to question old stereotypes”; to her meeting Vic Finkelstein, one of the biggest influencers at the time, to the moment she became aware that she was part of an exciting wide and growing movement, and finally to entering Parliament.

I thought ‘My god, I’m part of something big…It was 10 years of self-discovery of finding friends and doing things outside the home. I was seeing places, being part of ideas and groups that I’d never ever dreamed I would. It felt amazing and I feel privileged to have wheeled that road.”

 Baroness Jane Campbell provides an engaging and brilliant whistle stop tour of the key players and changes to disability policy and legislation in the UK. Her fight continues as she told us, “Prejudice and discrimination is still rife out there and we have to protect each other and fight alongside each other.” 

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The birth of “Nothing about us, without us.” - Listen to a clip here

“Because it was a disabled person telling us this, Vic was able to unlock a world for all of us that offered so much more than we ever imagined possible. And that then led to other disabled people becoming enlightened, and their understanding taking a seismic shift. All this happened very quickly, but what it also did was unlock a deep rooted anger and sense of personal injustice within all of us. That conceptual seismic shift enabled us to go out there and spread the word in greater numbers. That would never have happened from within a disability charity because until then, able bodied professionals or charity workers or doctors or social workers had spoken on our behalf. And this was the very first time that we began to speak out on our own behalf. And that's when the slogan ‘Nothing about us, without us’ came into play and we rejected, totally, the able-bodied viewpoint.”

On being taught by great leaders - Listen to a clip here

“I was taught by some of the greatest leaders of that time. Michael Oliver who named our oppression which was the ‘social model of disability’ ‘the tool that liberated 1000s of people in this country. Vic met Mike Oliver, both had spinal injuries and they began to talk and plot about our situation and how to change it. He was the one who said ’Get off your benefits and demand the right to work. It’s the state’s way of oppressing you and keeping you apart and silent. We have got to build a liberation movement of disabled people in this country.’ He then met a man called Paul Hunt and together they set up the first group of disabled people called ‘The Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation’. They wrote a paper called ‘Fundamental Principles and this, for the first time, put into writing, the definition of disability: impairment was the condition and disability were the barriers. And this definition defined what became the ‘Social Model of Disability’.” 

Laying the blueprint for the Disability Discrimination Act - Listen to a clip here

‘Disabled people in Britain and anti-discrimination legislation’ by Colin Barnes was the seminal book that lay the blueprint of what was to become the framework for the Disability Discrimination Act. …I went into parliament regularly to talk to Ministers and MPs about - how disabled people needed to have a bedrock of rights in order to have full citizenship. It took another 10 years for the Bill to finally pass-through parliament and it became law in 1995, after several attempts of putting it through.” 

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