Between 16 November and 16 December 2022, a series of art installations and events celebrating Disability History Month will be hosted along traffic-free National Cycle Network routes in Scotland.
Sustrans Scotland is celebrating UK Disability History Month with artworks and events along the National Cycle Network. Photo Credit: Colin Hattersley, 2022.
Disability History Month is a month-long event focusing on the history of Disabled* people's struggle for equality and human rights.
It is held annually throughout the UK between November and December.
Each year examines an aspect of the lived experience of Disabled people which is both current and has historical significance.
The four pieces created along the National Cycle Network celebrate notable disabled people, movements, and locations from Scotland's history that have made it the country it is today.
The artworks and performances will encourage everyone to reflect on change and highlight what still needs to be done to achieve equality for Disabled people.
Have you visited or attended any of the Disability History Month artworks and events? We would love to hear your feedback.
If you require support to complete this survey please contact: Amy.Walker@sustrans.org.uk
Disability History Month events along the National Cycle Network
Ellen is a poet, performer and theatre maker from Edinburgh.
While always keeping poetry at its core, her work varies in form and has included publications, journalism, installations, and multimedia collaborations.
She is a Jerwood Fellow with Imaginate and an associate artist with Disability Arts Online and the Edwin Morgan Trust.
Ellen's 'The Blind Factories' poetry trail is an exploration of the history of Blindcraft in Edinburgh – a mattress-making factory which employed blind and visually impaired people for several centuries until its closure in 2011.
A poetry trail along the cycle path network from The Innocent Tunnel to The Jewel raises questions about the controversies surrounding the factory, and more broadly, the importance of acknowledging the nuances of disability history.
The project will culminate in led walking tours along the trail with poetry performances and a live performance film recording.
'The Blind Factories' will be accessible from 23 November on National Cycle Network Route 1 between the Innocent Railway Tunnel and Braid Burn.
Sasha Saben Callaghan
Sasha is an artist, writer and disability equality trainer living in Edinburgh.
She was a winner of the 2016 ‘A Public Space’ International Emerging Writer Fellowship, the 2019 Pen to Paper Awards and the 2022 Stephen Palmer Travel Bursary Award for Visual Artists.
'Leith Lives: Re-imagined' takes the histories of six disabled ‘inmates’ from the North and South Leith Poorhouses.
It transforms their stories into the mythical, the beautiful and the uncanny to create a public art installation beside National Cycle Network Route 75 and the Water of Leith.
Sasha's work will be accessible from 16 November.
Hector is a self-taught artist who works across textiles, performance and social engagement.
Based in Glasgow, their art takes a DIY approach and often involves working with other people.
'It Is A Long Lane That Has No Turning' is a series of woven panels which tells the story of Scottish weavers, specifically those in Paisley and Glasgow, and the disabilities they developed through their trade.
Hector's focus is the societies and trade unions they created to support one another.
The final artwork will be accessible from the 16 November on National Cycle Network Route 7, close to Paisley town centre.
Dylan's 'Hugh Blair of Borgue' project focuses on the Scottish laird Hugh Blair, who is said to be the first documented autistic person in Scotland.
Accounts of Hugh Blair are written from the medical model of disability by non-autistic psychologists and historians.
This project aims to reframe Blair in a positive light as an autistic person of Scottish historical significance.
The permanent sculpture will serve as a visual and tactile point of interest, as well as serving as a bench and resting place.
You'll be able to find it along National Cycle Network 7 near the new hospital in Dumfries.
It will be unveiled at the start of December.
Interested in joining one of the artist-led events? Find out how you can get involved here.
Celebrating diversity through art
Ellen Renton, whose poetry trail can be found on National Cycle Network Route 1 in Edinburgh throughout Disability History Month, said:
“I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to work on this project.
“As a disabled artist, I’m often expected to make work that comes from my own experience.
“But to be able to do research that places me in a wider community and helps me feel a part of something much bigger has been hugely significant.”
The artworks and performances will encourage everyone to reflect on change and highlight what still needs to be done to achieve equality for Disabled people. Photo Credit: Colin Hattersley, 2022.
Celebrating a history that's often overlooked
Susan Morrison, a historian and broadcaster who sat on the steering group for the project, said:
“Bringing disabled artists together to present exciting artwork for all of us to enjoy on the National Cycle Network is a brilliant initiative.
“To mark Disability History Month, Sustrans and the artists have created a vibrant celebration of a history that is often overlooked - but no-one can overlook these works!
“This is a great way to put that history front and centre.”
Cosmo Blake, Network Engagement Manager at Sustrans Scotland, added:
“We're so pleased to be working alongside such talented artists to celebrate Disability History Month along our National Cycle Network.
“The locations for the pieces have been chosen as they relate to places of significance to Disabled people’s history in the local community and wider areas.
“The works we commissioned together with our steering group include poetry, collage, sculpture and woven textiles.
“They will be accessible on the Network between the 16 November and 16 December.
“These unique pieces will both shine a light on the historical lived experience of Disabled people in Scotland and encourage reflection on what still needs to be done to achieve equality today.”
UK Disability History Month is defined as “an annual event creating a platform to focus on the history of our struggle for equality and human rights.”
What is Disability History Month?
These organisations are leaders and coordinators for Disability History Month across Scotland and the wider UK.
They define UK Disability History Month as “an annual event creating a platform to focus on the history of our struggle for equality and human rights.”
Disability History Scotland is a Disabled people’s organisation “advocating the advancement of equality and diversity through the promotion of disability history, education and campaigning.”
Disability History Scotland are “committed to active participation, offering a view of history which includes disabled individuals and the many achievements they have made which, to this day, contribute to society.”
Why is Sustrans supporting Disability History Month in Scotland?
We're working hard to become a charity for everyone.
Sustrans wants walking, wheeling and cycling to be safe, accessible and attractive choices for everyone in Scotland, regardless of age, background or ability.
We know there is a lot of work to be done to realise this vision.
Walking, wheeling and cycling participation is not equal.
Disabled people are currently underrepresented within trips along the National Cycle Network and across all active travel journeys.
Our recent nationwide study into walking and cycling found that only 12% of disabled people cycle weekly, compared to 19% of non-disabled people.
Similarly, 45% of disabled people reported that they walk or wheel at least five days a week, compared to 52% of non-disabled people.
This is not because there isn’t demand from people in these groups to make active and sustainable journey choices.
It's because barriers to participation are often amplified.
30% of disabled residents surveyed said they “did not cycle but wanted to.”
Sustrans want this project to be a platform for disabled voices to be heard by everyone.
By highlighting lived experiences and the contributions of Disabled people across active travel, we hope this will be a catalyst for ongoing, positive change.
*A capital D for 'Disabled people' has been used in this article to denote the shared identity that some Disabled people feel. However, Sustrans speaks to and for people who identify as both in or out of this community.