Since 1992, Disability Awareness Day (DAD) has been marked on a Sunday in July by local authorities and charities across the UK. The purpose of DAD is to bring together all people, regardless of their level of disability to inform others about the resources and services available to disabled people to assist them in living independent lives, free of discrimination.
DAD provides a great opportunity for us to consider and reflect on the role that disabled people play in our neighbourhoods. It’s important that we do, because when individuals and groups are excluded the path to genocide can begin.
In the 1930s the Nazis persecuted disabled people in a programme called ‘T4’. According to the Nazis, anyone who was ‘unfit’ was considered damaging to the common good of the nation; a decree was made to force sterilisation on all disabled people. It is estimated that between 1933 and 1939, 360,000 people were sterilised. Following this, from 1939, the Nazis began to kill anyone who was disabled; even new-born babies with disabilities had to be reported.
You can use our website to find out more about what has happened in the past when the rights of disabled people have not been upheld. Berge Kanikanian was born in England and has learning difficulties. After suffering personal discrimination at work he was inspired to find out more about discrimination based on disability. He travelled to Germany and Poland to learn more about the Nazi Persecution of disabled people and see the sites where it occurred. He produced a film of his journey which he hopes to take around the UK to raise awareness of the persecution of disabled people by the Nazis and its continued relevance for today.
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