From Tony Baldwinson
Are We Oppressed?
Today, 3 December 2018, a key document which helped in the creation and understanding of the social model of disability is being published for the first time. Forty four years ago it was compiled by Vic Finkelstein in UPIAS, the new and radical Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation. He called it, Are We Oppressed? and issued it in the summer of 1974. It is now freely available online at https://tinyurl.com/yd7u9dc7 .
At the time almost all UPIAS documents were private for the members only.
Circulars were posted to members, sometimes every six weeks, with news and comments on other people's contributions - a social media of its time preserved on paper. The privacy allowed for free and frank discussions between the Union members, and this privacy has been respected and retained by the removal of people's names.
So now, for the first time, non UPIAS members can read 'Are We Oppressed?'.
It was a seminal document in which Vic Finkelstein conducted an internal polemic with Union members over the need to agree certain fundamental principles for their newly formed organisation. Their internal struggle to understand how they were to bring about real change for disabled people is revealed with clarity and careful analysis.
This 2018 edition includes a new introduction written by Judy Hunt and Maggie Davis, both key members of UPIAS from the beginning. The publication date is on the International Day of Disabled People.
The original document is a 22 page low-cost photocopy. It is partly an assembly of stapled cuttings from various UPIAS Circulars, mixed with typed slips of paper and handwriting by Vic Finkelstein to add his powerful analysis. A total of 16,000 words. Roughly half of the document was legible enough to be scanned and accurately read by software, the rest had to be retyped or corrected by hand. Preserving the UPIAS papers, often in rare personal collections, is part of a wider archiving project by the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People.
The successful publication of this document is due to the enthusiasm and hard work of Tony Baldwinson, a long-time and dedicated ally of the Disabled People's Movement, friend to many involved in the Movement and prolific archivist in his spare time. Tony has scanned and typed this document, with the support of Judy Hunt and Maggie Davis who also gave their time to decipher the faded print.
Judy Hunt said "We believe many of the points raised in this document will be of interest and also continue to have relevance."
- The Social Model explains the real experience of disabled people: we are disabled people because we face barriers, discrimination, prejudice and fewer opportunities in society, not because of our impairments.
'Impairment' is when part of a person's body or mind does not work, is missing, or works differently to what society expects. 'Disability' is the word for the barriers, discrimination and prejudice disabled people face.
Disability makes us disabled people, not our impairments.
- The UPIAS document 'Fundamental Principles of Disability (1975) can
be found at: