1 Cerebral palsy (cp) is a physical condition that can make it difficult to move around and communicate unaided.
2 People with cp were called spastics. The Spastics Society changed to Scope in 1994 because spastic had become a term of disablist abuse.
3 Scope wants to challenge disablism, which is the discrimination of disabled people, in all its forms. [DISABLISM TEAR-OFF HERE]
4 Scope wants a society in which disabled people are as valued and have the same human and civil rights as everyone else.
5 Oral history gives a voice to people who have not had an official voice in the past. Speaking for Ourselves shows you what life was like for an older generation of disabled people. Find out more about oral history at
6 The lives of disabled people has been largely excluded from the history books of the 20 th century.
7 Merle Davies recalls her childhood
8 You see, I was about seven when the war ended, so there wasn t a lot of money, but they always provided well for us. We didn t have TV in those days. We listened to the radio playing, and playing out in the streets. I remember playing skipping and hopscotch in the streets. Oh well, I knew I was different from other children. I integrated well, with other children. Some of them were very supportive; others took the Mickey. Now, mainly they were quite supportive. We lived in a small village, so I went out to play with other children.
9 In the 20 th century, disabled people were often separated from their family and friends. Pat Entwistle remembers being taken into care in 1942, aged two
10 We ve got 14 children in a three-bedroom house, so the Paediatrician said Well, I ve no alternative than to recommend that he goes into care, and they never saw me again. I was taken into a Convent at Patricroft, near Eccles, where there were 250 children, and I was the only handicapped child there. I mean I didn t even know about birthdays. I never got any birthday cards or presents. I just accepted it because I didn t know. What you didn t know, you didn t have. It was only later on when I did find out, that it started to effect.
11 The life stories help to explain what it was like then and how it is now
12 One project volunteer, Anne Pridmore, said: Speaking for Ourselves is an exciting and valuable project. Why? Because disabled people are not included in social history.
13 We want future generations to learn about the barriers disabled people faced in the last century. Antonia Lister-Kaye describes her experience of name-calling
14 I used to walk all the way up nearly to Bootham, you know, along that road: and I used to get a lot of comments, and rude looks, from the girls and boys at the local school: and I didn t like it Well, Here comes Useless Eustace!, and later, I actually learnt to ride a bicycle, and the comments got even worse Nobody actually threw stones at me, but I was always frightened they might
15 and I remember going into to a shop; this was when I was a bit older, in York, and I was sort of, a very nervous child, my hands had always been a bit trying, sort of getting the change out, and the woman said, Oh poor dear! Was it the air raids? so I screamed at her, absolutely screamed: I was absolutely furious. You see, nobody at home ever mentioned my disability: it was never mentioned, because they were Christian Scientists, or, you know, or very inhibited, or very ashamed of me, having produced a child who wasn t quite 100%, so, if anybody outside mentioned it, I just couldn t stand it, because it was never even mentioned at home. Can you see that?
16 In the 1950s, parents of children with cerebral palsy were often told by doctors to put their children into care homes and try for another child. Dr Lin Berwick MBE remembers
17 Mum was taking me backwards and forwards to the doctor, and the doctor was trying to give her reassurance, but at 18 months old mum got her way and I was taken to see a neurologist, who, after seeing me undress, held me upside down by my feet, watched the body movement when I screamed and said, This child is spastic. Take her home, forget about her, she ll never be any good. You re wasting my time, your time, and everybody else s.
18 My mother was absolutely gutted by this experience, and she cried all the way home, from Carshalton to Poplar, and, as she puts it, she was extremely tearful and frightened, and then her tears turned to anger, and she said, How dare this man say that you re no good, and that you are to be taken home and forgotten about? We re going to try and help you to make your way in the world, and, basically, that s what she did.
19 Often, children with cerebral palsy, born as late as the 1950s, were routinely described as being ineducable.
20 There was very little chance that children were even given the opportunity to attend local schools with their brothers and sisters.
21 St Margaret s was a residential school for children with cerebral palsy in Croydon opened in 1947.
23 We all had cerebral palsy. It was a tiny school really. We had three classes. We had an hour s therapy a day, taken out of this school day, so you had 20 minutes physio, 20 minutes occupational therapy, and 20 minutes speech therapy: all exceedingly necessary, but, somewhat disruptive to the education process. Valerie Lang MBE, recalling her time at St Margaret s.
24 School days at St Margaret s Lessons, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy
26 1950s advertising: by The Spastics Society
27 The support of families often played a crucial role in making sure disabled children had an equal start in life.
28 Barry Morgan (far right) fondly remembers his family, seen here visiting Dudley Zoo in 1959.
29 My early life was brilliant because my father he worked for the local authority, and my mother was a cook in a hospital, and it was brilliant really because for the simple reason that, having two brothers and a sister, I was never without anybody to be with me to help, to play, and things like this, and the beauty of what my parents did, was that they never treated us any different, to the others. If one had it, the other one had it.
30 I remember, when my father bought us bicycles for Christmas, irrespective that I wore a calliper on my leg and I had a problem with my one hand, he bought me a three-wheeled bike for Christmas and all the other three had a bike as well. I come off mine a couple of times, but, nevertheless, you know, I was never treated any differently. If there was good hidings going I was given a good hiding, you know.
31 Some parents were able to get their disabled children into local mainstream schools, as Joan Ross remembers
32 Yes, my mum decided that I should go to school. She took it for granted that I was entitled to education like everyone else. She saved for me to go to a little private school very near where we lived, but they refused to have me, so she tried the local infants school that was all on one level. And they were very reluctant. The headmistress did want to take me. She was willing to have me, but the education authority weren t happy about me going. And I didn t have to go to school, it wasn t compulsory.
33 So my mum decided to go to the education offices every day, to ask them when they were going to find a place for me at this school she had in mind. And one day when she went, she heard one of them say: That Ross woman is here again. And so she said: Yes, and I ll be here again tomorrow, until you offer me a place for my daughter at school.
34 Thomas Delarue, a secondary school for children with cerebral palsy, 1959
35 The experience of operations or wearing callipers was common, as John Hawkridge remembers.
36 Unfortunately for me I got selected to be fitted with iron callipers. So all of a sudden you find yourself in leg irons, and you can hardly, you know from being able to run, they ve put you in these leg irons, and you can hardly stand up, never mind run. And they put you in them, and they tighten all the leather straps on you when you re in. You know, it s, basically, it s just a form of torture; they re just forcing your joints against what they want to do. And so, you find yourself, you might be wearing your callipers x amount of hours a day. Now bearing in mind I could take these callipers off and run, and run, hop, skip and jump, that weren t something that I enjoyed at all.
37 And then before I left that school, somebody came up with this fantastic idea of fitting me with night splints on me ankles, so I wore callipers through the day, so I was in agony with me legs through the day, and then when I went to bed I was in agony with my ankles, cos I had me feet strapped into ankle splints, so in many respects it wasn t a pleasure, and I definitely didn t wear these callipers on a weekend at home, whether I was supposed to or not I don t know, but I definitely didn t, and I didn t wear these ankle splints at home either.
38 Bill s worst handicap is other people s attitude. Spastics Society Poster, 1983.
39 Spastics Society Collecting Doll, from 1964.
40 Tony Wilson remembers a time when young disabled men and women were kept apart
41 The young males went in the mornings, and the ladies went in the afternoons, but we only did two hours in the morning, and we were told to leave the Seven Dials area by one o clock: if you don t, you ll be in serious trouble. They didn t want us to mix with the girls in those days: they were very, very strict in those days. They wouldn t let disabled people mix together, the opposite sex mix together.
42 They used to call it morning classes and afternoon class, classrooms, you know, where we used to make things, and all that, and do, and all that, and do weaving, and do embroidery work, and do drawing and all that, whatever they think disabled people was fit to do. If we were caught with one of the girls we would get in serious trouble and we'd be put away. That's what they used to do in those days. Put people away or in institutions or something if, if you were caught. So you had to keep, so you had to behave, behave yourself in those days, otherwise you would be put away.
43 When I was born with cerebral palsy, the consultant advised my mother to put me away in an institution and to have another baby and forget about me. After several university qualifications and a busy career, I now find myself living in one of those large asylums, which have been converted into luxury flats. The irony is not lost on me. Jill Mahler, Speaking for Ourselves Volunteer interviewer and interviewee
44 Changing Society You can read the history of Scope (formerly the Spastics Society) in Changing Society, a book written to celebrate the charity s 50th anniversary in The full interviews for Changing Society are available in the British Library Sound Archive.
45 Read transcripts of more than 30 life stories of people with cerebral palsy at Use the search box to find topics you are interested in.
46 We would like to thank all of our volunteers and interviewees for taking part in Speaking for Ourselves. We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund which funded this project. Scope, 2006
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