The roots of Disability Wales go back to the early 70s when the Welsh Office recognised that a national coordinating voluntary body was needed that could speak on behalf of disabled people on matters of common concern. Coordinated action and discussion with local and national Government was vital to address the immense inequalities and social exclusion that disabled people experienced.

This was before devolution and when very little legislation existed on disability and disabled people did not have access to their rights in the way we do today. It was a significant achievement when the ‘Wales Council for the Disabled’ (WCD) was established in 1972.

Following consultation, disabled people identified their priorities as finance, employment, mobility, care services, access, education and recreation. The social model of disability underpinned the approach and the work of the WCD began.

There has been a transformation over time in legislation, social policy and public attitudes towards disabled people. However, we know that our hard fought for rights can easily be eroded and forty-five years on we continue to fight to keep, promote and enhance our rights.

Wales Council for the Disabled became Disability Wales in 1994. We still hold tight to the values of the social model of disability. We drive forward new ways to create an inclusive and accessible society for all disabled people regardless of physical or sensory impairment, learning difficulty or mental health condition.

Key Achievements

Since 1972 Disability Wales has contributed significantly to the development of disability-related policy in Wales, pioneered innovative services, established new organisations and initiated campaigns to secure the rights, equality and independence of disabled people. Noteworthy achievements include:

  • The first Aids and Equipment Resource Centre in Wales (1978)
  • Access Building Awards Scheme (1979 -91) and the first ever Access Design Guidance Notes (1978)
  • Mobile information service (DAI) (1989-97)
  • Development of new national and local disability organisations in the fields of sports, the arts, young people and access (1980s – )
  • First programme in Wales to train disabled people to become Disability Equality Trainers (1992)
  • Providing advice to over 2000 disabled people about establishing their own business through the Enter DW Project (2001-8)
  • High profile campaigns on Access to the High Street, Disability Hate Crime, Independent Living and Welfare Reform (2008- )
  • Leadership role in Coalition on Charging Cymru (2000 -) actively contributed to development of Social Care Charging Measure 2011
  • Successfully campaigned for the introduction of Welsh Government’s Framework for Action on Independent Living (2013)
  • Active engagement in development of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act (2014)
  • A partner in the world’s first research programme led by disabled people (Disability Research in Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) (2015 to date)
  • Establishment of the first user-led co-operative in the UK run by and for Direct Payments recipients (2017)
  • Representation of Disabled People from Wales at the United Nations in Geneva at the first examination of the UK Government regarding the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (2017)
  • Distributing COVID-19 Emergency Grants to 9 Disabled People’s Organisations across Wales on behalf of the National Emergencies Trust and Welsh Government (2020)
  • Successfully lobbying Welsh Government for and receiving funding to set up the Access to Elected Office Fund in Wales to assist disabled people standing for elected office in the Sened and local government elections (2021)


Vital to Disability Wales’ success over forty-five years is the role and support of our membership, enabling us to speak to Government authoritatively on the everyday experiences of disabled people with the purpose of informing and influencing policy. To add your voice to ours, or to find out more about our work, explore our website and contact us

Disability Wales Timeline

Some of the significant dates in the history of Disability Wales and its members include:

1972: Wales Council for the Disabled (WCD) established as a committee of the Council for Social Service in Wales.

1976: WCD becomes an autonomous voluntary body

1981: During the International Year of Disabled People, WCD hosts a worldwide conference in Swansea University for disabled people

1991: Introduction of the Community Care Act

1994: WCD members vote to change its name to Disability Wales to reflect the changing aspirations of and attitudes towards disabled people

1995: Introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act

1996: Introduction of the Community Care (Direct Payments) Act

2003: During the European Year of Disabled People, DW members vote for the organisation to be run and controlled by disabled people and to formally adopt the Social Model of Disability

2005: Introduction of the Disability Equality Duty

2008: DW commences a three-year programme to involve members and stakeholders in developing a Manifesto for Independent Living

2010: Introduction of the Equality Act replacing the DDA (1995 & 2005)

2011: DW publishes its Manifesto for Independent Living prior to the National Assembly Elections. The Welsh Government responds by announcing plans to develop a Framework for Action on Independent Living underpinned by the Wales Public Sector Equality Duties

2012: DW celebrates its 40th Anniversary through a range of activities including an oral history project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – the Story at 40: the lives and times of disabled people in Wales.

2013: DW published Cap in Hand? The impact of Welfare Reform on disabled people in Wales report

2015: DW published Disabled Peoples Manifesto: Creating and Enabling Wales (2016-2021) leading up to the National Assembly for Wales Elections 2016

2017: DW provided the Welsh lead for the Civil Society UNCRDP Reporting Project, funded by the EHRC and presented evidence to the UN Committee in Geneva.

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