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About Michael Riordan

Welcome

Michael Riordan is a political progressive with cerebral palsy, interested in how thinking about things from a disabled point-of-view can inform more inclusive public policy for all, not just for those of us with disabilities.

I started this site because these thoughts became too big for my Twitter profile.

A bit about me

In my teens, I was involved in a pioneering court action for medical negligence. For a number of years, I was the junior judge of the Special Educational Needs Children’s Book Awards, run by the National Association for Special Educational Needs (NASEN). Reading of hundreds of books about disability for kids and young adults gave me an insight into the diversity of the disability spectrum.

I studied philosophy and politics at Sheffield, where I acted in a number of roles in the students union. As disabled representative, I was instrumental in shaping the Union’s evolving response to people with disabilities. As campaigns secretary for the (then) LGB committee, I helped steer the union towards trans-inclusion.

I gravitated towards towards history and received a Master’s at Queen Mary, University of London, and PhD at Cambridge, and have since published widely in early modern British history. I write about my historical work elsewhere.

Most recently, I have been involved in campaigns to reduce prejudice against disabled people in nightlife, for the voices of disabled people to be included in Active Travel Strategies that promote cycling and walking, and for a more equitable response to Covid.

My perspective

My early work with NASEN convinced me of three important truths.

First, that disability is diverse, and our responses must be correspondingly diverse. Only by understanding, for example, that what works for a blind person, might further disable a deaf person (or indeed another blind person).

Second, the importance of hearing disabled voices: there is often a divide between the experiences of disabled people and those who work with them, and therefore the only way to know what works for a disabled person is to ask them.

Third, lessons from disability have applicability far beyond those traditionally considered disabled: society makes us disabled by obsturcting our ability to participate fully in society. This “social model” of disability has traditionally been applied to those with “impairments” defined by society, whether they be visible (like my cerebral palsy) or invisible (like autism or ME, among many other examples). But it has not been applied to other groups who are excluded in the same way, such as elderly people. If we know how society disables us all–in unique, but similar ways–we can ask how we could enable anyone, and mould more inclusive society.

As a result of these realisations, I decided to write a blog. This site will not resort to platitudes, or personal experience, but use evidence to examine how policy can be made more inclusive.