Skip To Main Content

Cambridge City Council

Cambridge supports Disability History Month

1 December 2023

UN International Day of Disabled Persons takes place on Sunday (3 December), during UK Disability History Month (16 November to 16 December).

UK Disability History Month (UKDHM) is an annual campaign to tackle the social exclusion, stigma, stereotypes, negative attitudes and socially created barriers experienced by disabled people.

Did you know?

  • Research by Scope in 2022 found that three out of four disabled people in the UK had experienced negative attitudes or behaviour in the last five years, and nine out of 10 said this had a negative effect on their daily lives.
  • Latest Government figures show that disability hate crime increased by 43% from 2020/21 to 2021/22, and has increased year on year since at least 2017/18.
  • The employment rate for disabled people is 54%, compared with 83% of non-disabled people.
  • Disabled people face extra costs associated with their disability: on average, disabled households need an additional £975 a month to have the same standard of living as non-disabled households.

The UKDHM theme for 2023 is Disability, Children and Youth, and the campaign urges organisations to examine their approaches to disabled children and young people, and challenges anyone who portrays images of disabled people to do so in inclusive and non-stereotypical ways. 

One of the main ways we can all help to bring about positive change is to check our own thinking about impairment and disablement. UKDHM campaigns for barriers that prevent disabled people from participating to be dismantled. 

We support UK Disability History Month as part of our wider commitment to strengthening equality and diversity in Cambridge, and anyone passing the Guildhall this month may spot that it is lit up in purple throughout Disability History Month.

Update on our ongoing work to support disabled people

Funding for Disability History Month events: A number of local groups have been awarded a small amount of funding to run events and activities that help local groups to celebrate Disability History Month (whether during the month itself or at a preferred time of year). Constituted voluntary sector organisations which provide activities for adults and children with disabilities are welcome to contact us to see if they could also qualify for a contribution to their activities. Email for more information. Groups funded this year include:

  • Safe Soulmates, whose purpose is to end loneliness for neurodivergent and disabled adults, and deliver small and large social events, and host parties and plan day trips.
  • Rowan, which provides an arts centre and forest school for adults with learning disabilities based in Cambridge, and will use council funding for their students’ Christmas party and an excursion in the new year.
  • Expert on Myself, which creates opportunities for people to educate professionals about the issues that affect them, with the organisation’s expertise coming from people’s lived experience.

Community Grants funding: As part of our annual £1 million+ Community Grants programme, £47,160 was awarded in 2023-24 to 11 local groups that support people with disabilities. The groups range from the Cambridge United Foundation, which offers pan-disability multi-sport and football sessions throughout the year, including Deaf, Amputee, Autism and powerchair football; to Level Water, who run swimming sessions for disabled children; and The Romsey Mill Trust, whose Aspire Plus programme offers life- and social-skills learning for young people with Autism.

Communities Team: Our Communities Team is organising training to explore how to make community activities more inclusive. The team is also planning the 2024 summer holiday programme and is inviting people to submit ideas about what activities should be organised – particularly from disabled children and young people. To let us know your views please email 

Accessible homes: We committed to building 500 new homes that could be adapted to become wheelchair accessible, and 25 new homes (5% of the 500) that are wheelchair accessible, by 2024. We have so far completed 558 homes which are adaptable, of which 27 are wheelchair accessible. We currently have a further 439 adaptable homes in the programme and are investigating opportunities to provide level access at existing council homes through refurbishment schemes.

Disabled Facilities Grants for home improvements: The council’s Cambridgeshire Home Improvement Service (Cambs HIA) completes around £500,000 worth of adaptations to homes for people with disabilities in Cambridge. This work is funded by Disabled Facilities Grants, and includes adaptations for people with long term health conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Motor Neurone disease and arthritis. Around a third of adaptations are also for children, sometimes with profound physical and learning difficulties. As a shared council service, Cambs HIA also operates across South Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire and over the last five years has delivered around £15 million worth of adaptations and repairs grants impacting around 1,300 people across the whole area.

Building Changing Spaces public toilets: We have committed to investing £625,000 to complete upgrades to two of our public toilets, to offer additional Changing Places facilities, which are designed for people with disabilities. These include a wider range of options for people that can’t transfer to a toilet from a wheelchair.

Shopmobility UK scheme: Anyone who has a temporary or permanent mobility problem can borrow a mobility scooter or wheelchair to visit the city centre. This is a free service, but users must register in advance.

SignLive: British Sign Language (BSL) users can use a free online service called SignLive to contact the council through a professional interpreter. Accessing SignLive is free via a smartphone or tablet app, or users can use a computer with a webcam, microphone and speakers.

Covering the cost of taxi use: The Taxicard scheme helps disabled people who live in Cambridge and have a low income to pay for taxi journeys. The current scheme runs from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024. When you join the scheme, we will give you vouchers worth up to £155. The number of vouchers will reduce if you join the scheme partway through the year.

Training for council staff: New starters at the council receive equality and diversity training as part of their induction, which includes training around disability awareness (on terminology, demographics, practical approaches to overcoming barriers and promoting inclusion, and reasonable adjustments). A bespoke staff training session has also been commissioned to run during Disability History Month to help staff to consider how to support colleagues, residents and visitors with impairments or disabilities. The session will also provide examples of some of the support that the council can offer to disabled people to improve inclusion. 

Disability Confident: We have been awarded Level 2 as a Disability Confident Employer and have been signed up for a number of years. This is a national initiative we are signed up to that was developed by employers and disabled people’s representatives to help improve recruitment, retention and career progression of disabled people in workplaces.

Cllr Rachel Wade, Executive Councillor for Communities, said: “Supporting people with disabilities is a year-round priority for the council. We are committed to ensuring that through the provision of council services – whether that’s building new council homes, engaging with residents, creating accessible activities and facilities, or funding community organisations – we help to dismantle barriers that prevent disabled people from participating in society.

“From my own experience of supporting people with disabilities I’m aware of the day to day challenges still being faced, and I’m determined to support initiatives that help to change attitudes. Thank you to all of the community organisations that consistently provide invaluable services to the community throughout the year.

“There is always more that needs to be done, and I would encourage everyone during Disability History Month to take the time to engage in training, to seek opportunities to learn about lived experiences of people with different disabilities, or to find out more about local organisations and how you could get involved.”

Cllr Gerri Bird, Executive Councillor for Housing and Homelessness, said: “Having had a disability myself since I was 10 months old, I have a first hand understanding of the challenges people with disabilities face day to day and the issues that need to be addressed.

“I have been an activist for over 40 years, and consider marking the International Day of Disabled Persons to be very important to help keep focus on the need to tackle the social and structural barriers that people still face.

“In my role as Executive Councillor for Housing, I’m particularly passionate about all of the work we’re doing to ensure that new council houses are better equipped for any of our tenants who have disabilities, and the work of Cambs HIA to fund or project-manage work to adapt existing homes.”