Organisation And History

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Organisation And History

Disability Action, as it is currently constituted, is the result of a regular refocusing of its mission, systems and structures since the early 1960's.

 

At that time, the Northern Ireland Council of Social Service, now (N.I.C.V.A) Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action supported 3 standing committees, which grew throughout the 1970's and 1980's to become the independent bodies, Age Concern Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Association of Citizens Advice Bureau and Disability Action.

 

Disability Action began life in the late 1950's as the Belfast Committee for the Handicapped and over the next three decades became the Northern Ireland Committee for the Handicapped (N.I.C.H), the Northern Ireland Council for the Handicapped, the Northern Ireland Council on Disability and finally in 1992 Disability Action.

 

In its earliest form, the N.I.C.H was serviced by a part time secretary who was a member of N.I.C.S.S staff. The key elements that stimulated its growth were the United Kingdom's Silver Jubilee Committee on Improving Access to the Built Environment in 1978 and the International Year of Disabled People in 1981.

 

As part of the former, N.I.C.H, then comprising a Council of approximately 25 disability organisations (mostly concerned with physical disability), undertook an access survey of Northern Ireland producing 6 county guides for use by disabled people and their families and friends. The member organisations became involved as volunteer surveyors and report writers and so a great energy was created around N.I.C.H.

 

The latter, the International Year of Disabled People, built on this energy to create information services, activities and additional resources which were the platform on which the Disability Action of today is based.

 

As a result of the Silver Jubilee work, the part time worker was made full time and became in effect the Director. Funding was made available in 1980 to create Northern Ireland's first Information Service for disabled people, and in 1981 an International Year of Disabled People/Access Development Officer was appointed, a five-fold increase in staffing.

 

The results of this resourcing were obvious; in 1982 N.I.C.H started the first Group Transport Service for Disabled People, 20 Local Access Groups were established and the promotional events surrounding the International Year of Disabled People were creating a range of new disability organisations, a few of them 'of' disabled people rather than 'for' disabled people.

 

By 1985/6 N.I.C.S.S had undergone a major review which was to refocus it as N.I.C.V.A and as part of these recommendations N.I.C.H, the last standing committee, moved to independence becoming the Northern Ireland Council on Disability (N.I.C.D) in 1987. The change of language used in our name changes is a powerful indicator of the development of the politics of disability and of the recognition of the need for N.I.C.D to lead the demand for social inclusion rather than charity.

 

At the same time N.I.C.D was developing services in the fields of access, information, community development, mobility, transport, employment and vocational training to fill gaps in provision, focusing on the key areas of discrimination identified by the organisation at the time.

 

The natural progression was work undertaken between 1989 - 1991, which led to the renaming of N.I.C.D as Disability Action and the publishing of an underpinning Charter of Rights in 1992.

 


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