There’s been much debate in the media recently about the voice and representation of disabled people, sparked by the release of the movie The Upside this January, where the lead character has quadriplegia; the role is played by Bryan Cranston instead of a disabled actor.
So it’s interesting that local charity Disability West Lothian is currently undertaking a study of the influence that disabled people have had on the urban landscape of West Lothian in the past 50 years. Called “Back to the Future West Lothian,” the project will be an oral history of the influence disabled people have had on many aspects of life such as public transport; the accessibility of public buildings, changes in educational facilities; health care facilities; parks, paths, and many others.
“Older people with a disability can be quite invisible,” says Debbie Forsyth, Volunteer Project Coordinator. “You may not see them out and about especially if they have mobility issues; but we’re keen to capture their heritage.”
Volunteers from the project will meet you wherever is convenient for you – in your home, or at the Disability West Lothian office in Pumpherston (which is fully accessible), to hear about and record your experiences. The volunteers are trained in oral history, and at the end of the project the recordings will be kept at the West Lothian Local History library, and a booklet and short video will be produced.
Gordon Mungall, Chair of Disability West Lothian, explained how the project came about: “There have been a lot of changes in the past 30 years, since Disability West Lothian was set up, so this is an opportunity to look back on what it was like living in West Lothian with a disability in the past to see how disabled people have driven change.”
Disability West Lothian (DWL) started in 1976 as a grass roots organisation and founded as a company in 1988. DWL works with people with disabilities to improving the quality of life of disabled people by promoting the ideals of the Social Model of Disability. Over the years DWL projects and services like its own Community Transport, Access Committee and Advice and Information Service, worked to ensure all disabled people could participate fully as equal citizens. Sadly in 2017 DWL had to return to a grassroots organisation because of funding.
If you would like to be involved in any way, to share your stories, or to volunteer to help collect the stories, to help at events or in any other way, please contact Disability West Lothian via the details below.
Facebook page at “Back to the Future, West Lothian”
Call Debbie Forsyth Back to the Future Project Co-Ordinator, on 01506 774030
Disability West Lothian is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC010605
Back to the Future West Lothian is Heritage Lottery Funded.
Article published in Konect March 2019
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer