Disability History Month

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Disability History Month 2023

What's on and support around disability.

Disability History Month at Kent

16 November - 16 December 2023

Find out what's on for Disability History Month, from talks and interactive events in Canterbury and Medway. Explore the disability history timeline of progress in disability support and provision at the University of Kent, and watch the series of short films about the experiences of disabled students, staff and alumni.

What's On in Disability History Month 2023

We have a full calendar of events and activities planned throughout Disability History Month 2023 in partnership with Kent Union.


Check out #DHMKent23 on social media to see what's coming up this year...

Here are some photos of some of the events that took place on our campuses to celebrate Disability History Month at Kent in 2022.

Image gallery

Film series: Our Stories

Students, staff and alumni on their lived experience of disability, and ways to reduce stigma and improve inclusion in our Kent community, and beyond.

To access larger or full-screen view, click the name beneath each video. Full transcripts are available at the bottom of this page.


Staff member, Canterbury campus. (2 minutes)


Undergraduate student, Medway campus. (2 minutes 18 seconds)


Staff member, Medway campus. (5 minutes 40 seconds)


Former student. (2 minutes 21 seconds)


Former student. (2 minutes 29 seconds)


Postgraduate student, Canterbury campus. (1 minute 47 seconds)


Staff member, Canterbury campus. (2 minutes 42 seconds)


Student, Canterbury campus. (8 minutes 48 seconds)

Timeline: our place in disability history.

This timeline was created in 2022 and displayed in the Marlowe building lobby from Thursday 24 November until Friday 16 December 2022. The physical exhibition was audio described on SoundCloud

Explore the full timeline here as a narrated video (7 mins, closed captions available), or scroll down to read a slightly abridged version.

You can also download this content as a large-print accessible Word document.    

Timeline panel


Kent welcomes first students.

Archive photo. Woman being lifted out of bus into wheelchair.

The first 500 students arrive at the University of Kent, including Ann Smith, a wheelchair user. The unprepared University hastily adds infrastructure to increase accessibility, including grab-rails in her room.


New laws for equal access.

Two people viewed from behind walking down steps towards a concrete building.

The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 is a breakthrough for disability rights. Local authorities must now provide equal access to educational facilities. This leads to the addition of some disabled parking on campus in 1971.


Disability in prospectus.

University of Kent 1975 prospectus cover in pink, set over an archive image of library shelves.

At the time of its first mention in a prospectus, the admissions process for disabled students seems to be based on the medical model of disability: where the disabled person's body is viewed to be the barrier.  


First disability advisers.

Archive photo. Woman facing camera, sat at desk with old computer.

David Reason, a disabled academic, is appointed the first Adviser to Disabled Students. Eve Wilson (pictured) also acts as Adviser in the 1980s. It soon becomes clear that the workload is too much for a single role.


Social model of disability.

Man with sunglasses, striped top and short grey hair and beard sitting in wheelchair.

Kent alumnus and lecturer Professor Mike Oliver (pictured here in 2018) develops the 'social model of disability', a new way of thinking after years of a 'medical model'. 

The MA he leads is the first course in what is later termed Disability Studies.

Read Mike's 1983 book online

Progress on campus access.

Archive map showing recommended routes for wheelchair users across a university campus.

Throughout the 1980s there is a sharp increase in the rate at which funding is allocated and works carried out to increase physical accessibility across campus. Funding commitments include ramps and accessible toilers in many buildings across campus.


Disabled Students Allowance (DSA).

Students at old fashioned desktop computers in a university Library.

The Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is established to help disabled full-time students cover equipment, non-medical helpers and general costs. However, part-time students will not become eligible for the DSA until 2000.


Support unit created.

Blue steps in large modern atrium with a wall of windows on the left.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 gave rights to disabled people to prevent discrimination on the grounds of disability. This law change is a factor in Kent making the decision to establish a coordinated Disability Support Unit around this time.


Formalised review processes.

Colour photograph of male student in study bedroom with an old fashioned computer.

New requirements for reasonable adjustments to make buildings accessible take effect in 2004. As a result, Kent's Disability Support Network Group and the Disabled Access Working Party gain importance, and are set to be merged into one review body.


Disability to accessibility.

View from above of eight university students sat at indoor table with laptops and books.

In 2015, Kent partners with DisabilityGO (now AccessAble) to create an online accessibility guide to its buildings.

From 2017, the Kent Inclusive Practices (KIPs) make teaching more accessible by anticipating the needs of disabled students.

AccessAble campus guides

DHM: raising awareness.

Two people seated in conversation.

From 2017, Kent staff and students start collaborating to celebrate Disability History Month (DHM) with many events and initiatives. For DHM 2018, a series of humorous films feature students describe some odd attitudes towards disabled people.

'People are Weird' on YouTube

Kent leads on accessibility.

Group of six smartly dressed people on stage holding an award.

Kent wins a Times Higher Education award for Outstanding Student Support, recognising innovative proactive rather than reactive approaches to access requirements.

In 2019, Kent hosts a Digital Accessibility Conference with local public sector bodies.

July 2022

Honorary graduates.

Man in graduation robes speaking at lectern in a cathedral.

Among many alumni who have contributed to improving society for people with disabilities, this year Dr Howard Leicester (pictured) and Kush Kanodia are awarded Doctors of Science for their work on social justice, accessibility, and social enterprise.

Read more

Integrated support.

Photo montage of many faces.

From the mid 2000s, the Disability Support Unit began to grow, incorporating dyslexia and mental health. In 2011, it became Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW), with around 40 full-time and sessional staff. In 2022, SSW has grown to over 70 staff.

Student Support and Wellbeing

This is where we are today. Now let's shape tomorrow.

A panel of four portraits of people,all seated.

The future belongs to all of us. Email EqualityAndDiversity@kent.ac.uk to share your stories, ideas, and expertise.