UK Disability History Month is celebrated every year 22nd November-22nd December. The theme for this year is ‘Celebrating our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to Institutions or Isolation’. Objects and people’s stories on display in the Museum of Liverpool will be featured on this blog throughout the month to celebrate. The first is Mary’s story, which is featured in the Growing Up and Growing Older section of The People’s Republic gallery. Mary discusses her life as a blind person and the limited expectations other people have of disabled people. (This is a shortened version of what is on display).
Courtesy of Disabled Women’s Arts Project Information relating to accessible facilities at the Museum of Liverpool can be found on the website.
“I was born at the Women’s Hospital in August 1950, three months premature. I grew up in Aigburth. It was considered advisable that disabled children should go to school, mostly residential schools early as it was felt that parents couldn’t properly meet their needs, and they would be better socialised. I started school aged three at St Vincent’s. Most of the children lived in. Very few went home each weekend, like me, as it was frowned upon. I was taught Braille. The education was pretty abysmal. Most paritally-sighted children leaving school went into factory or shop work. It was expected they would have children. Those of us without sight weren’t expected to have children or relationships. My first job was as a shorthand typist. I hated it. It was really old fashioned. My second job was at Littlewoods in a large typing pool of women of about my age. I was much more confident there. I just worked on a normal typewriter, no special equipment. It wouldn’t have been my first choice of career but I didn’t really have a choice. I had always been told I wasn’t bright enough to do anything else. You were expected to fit into the niche. There were very few people who fought the system. I left Littlewoods in the early 1980s when I became pregnant with my daughter, Helen. Other people (professionals) were a bit apprehensive about how I would cope. I always got the impression that they would somehow thought they could just step in, if they needed to, e.g. consider fostering or care packages. I had a specially-adapted pram and a guide dog. I went back to work when Helen was about six. I worked on a community programme with the Voluntary Society for the Blind. It was hard juggling job and home, and other people I worked with didn’t have much knowledge about disability. The disabled movement was starting to take off, awareness was growing among disabled people about how they were perceived and disabled people were starting to share their experiences more.”