We may have mentioned, once or twice, that Disability Wales is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
We couldn’t possibly let an opportunity to mark this milestone pass us by which is why we gathered at Cardiff City Stadium on the eve of our annual conference to take a look back at our organisation’s journey to date.
We were delighted to be joined by the likes of the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt MS, Chair of the Cross Party Group on Disability, Mark Isherwood MS and the High Sheriff of South Glamorgan, Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds, as well as colleagues and friends from across the third sector.
Across five decades, Disability Wales has been at the forefront of disability rights activism, representing the views of members to government, coordinating campaigns, and supporting Disabled People’s Organisations.
Established in 1972 as Wales Council for the Disabled, it was renamed Disability Wales in 1994 to reflect changing attitudes within society and the aspirations of disabled people. The Rights Now Campaign for fully comprehensive and civil rights legislation was at its height, actively supported by DW, and which culminated in the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995).
The dinner provided an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about what DW has achieved in responding to the changing social and economic landscape regarding disabled people, some of which include:
- Opening the first Aids and Equipment Centre in Wales in 1978
- Organisation of the Access to Building Awards Scheme 1979-91
- Coordination of a Mobile Disability Advice and Information Service across Wales – DAI the Bus, 1989 – 1997
- Supporting over 2000 budding disabled entrepreneurs with exploring self-employment, 400 of which set up their own businesses (2001 – 2007)
- Publication of the Manifesto for Independent Living ahead of the 2011 Welsh Assembly Elections which successfully influenced the introduction of the Framework for Action on Independent Living (2013), the first cross-cutting approach to tackling disabling barriers in society in Wales
- Establishment of the first Access to Elected Office Fund in Wales (2020) funded by Welsh Government which provided financial assistance to address barriers faced by disabled people standing in Senedd (2021) and Local Government (2022) Elections respectively
- Securing Cross Party Support and Welsh Government commitment to our Bring us our Rights Manifesto call to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People into Welsh law (2021)
As a membership organisation, DW recognises that its achievements are based on the dedication and commitment of successive generations of disabled activists and non-disabled allies.
This sentiment was echoed in a myriad of speeches guests were treated to throughout the evening, starting with DW Chairperson, Willow Holloway, who set the tone for a wonderful celebration.
Willow passed the baton to WCVA Chief Executive, Ruth Marks, who candidly captured the close relationship our organisations have had over the years.
A video was produced to complement the overarching theme of our Annual Conference, Road to Rights; it’s essentially a whistle-stop tour of DW’s history and what has been achieved over the past 50 years. Guests glimpsed a teaser of the video at the dinner, but you can watch it in full on our YouTube channel:
A delicious three course meal was soundtracked by lively discussions as guests reconnected and bonded over a shared interest and passion for disability rights and equality.
Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt MS, delivered a powerful address about disability rights and the vital role DW has played in advancing them in Wales.
The Minister’s speech highlighted the Welsh Government’s commitment to the Social Model of Disability and referenced the vital work of the Disability Rights Taskforce which was established to oversee the development of an action plan to roll back the damaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on disabled people.
Our Chief Executive, Rhian Davies, crowned the evening with her own address in which she responded to some of the points raised in the Minister’s speech before reflecting on the road to rights, how far we’ve come and what still needs to be done.
She then thanked everyone for sharing their evening with us as we celebrated 50 years of our organisation.
We were delighted to be able to reunite with colleagues and friends, old and new, to mark our anniversary. The room glowed as everyone shared memories and made new connections, and we were glad to be able to provide a platform for such wonderful discussions.