The New Politics of Disablement: The Contribution of Mike Oliver

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1782 ... March 11, 2019
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The New Politics of Disablement: The Contribution of Mike Oliver

Ravi Malhotra

Michael Oliver (3 February 1945 to 2 March 2019) was a British academic, author, and disability rights activist. He was Emeritus Professor of Disability Studies at the University of Greenwich. His research focused on the social model of disability, and his activism centred on overcoming the systemic barriers disabled people confront in their daily lives. We present below a memoir of his contribution to building Disability Studies and a movement demanding inclusion and equality for disabled people.

Mike Oliver, Emeritus Professor of Disability Studies at the University of Greenwich in England, has died at the age of 74 after a short illness. A long time wheelchair user since the age of seventeen, a sociologist... by training and author of many books including his landmark texts, Social Work with Disabled People (1983) and the Politics of Disablement (1990), and (with Colin Barnes), The New Politics of Disablement (2012). Oliver played a pioneering role in developing, with others such as Vic Finkelstein, what has come to be known as the social model of disability. The model builds from the proposition that it is structural barriers, such as a lack of wheelchair ramps or a failure to provide sign language interpreters, which impede disabled people rather than the impairments themselves. In other words, systemic barriers constitute an ableist society that disables disabled people and keeps them largely unemployed and in poverty. In every advanced capitalist country, disabled people face tremendous barriers in housing, transportation and employment. These barriers are so widespread and comprehensive that most individuals do not give them a second thought.

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