Disability History Month 2021

Find out what happened and the importance of supporting this campaign, which was celebrated widely across the NHS.

13 January 2022

Disability History Month took place between 18 November and 18 December 2021 and celebrated the lives and achievements of people living with a disability.

We supported Disability History Month 2021 as part of our ongoing work with NHS England and NHS Improvement to embed the Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES), and ensure our workplaces are open, inclusive and a place where everyone feels like they belong.

Our theme for 2021 was 'creating a compassionate and inclusive NHS' and links to the NHS People Promise.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, disconnect, disrupted routines both at home and in the workplace and diminished services have greatly impacted the lives and mental wellbeing of people with disabilities. 

Detailed below is a summary of statistics, examples of activities that took place in the NHS and a list of information and resources to help you support your disabled workforce. 

    • 3.5 per cent of staff in the NHS have declared a disability
    • 78.2 per cent of Disabled staff believe they have equal opportunities for career progression.
    • 92.8 per cent of trusts reported they had taken steps to facilitate the voices of disabled staff.
    • 100 per cent of NHS trusts have a disability guaranteed interview scheme in place
    • 77 per cent have a Disabled Staff Network 
    • 95 per cent of trusts are now accredited as Disability Confident

    Figures taken from the Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) 2020 Annual Report 

    • Making Talent Management Inclusive for All - 24 November 1-3pm  
      NHS South West and Midlands Talent Management Teams working in partnership with the Disabled NHS Directors Network organised a virtual event to share lived experiences, career journeys and what disabled leaders can offer to the NHS.
    • Adapt, innovate, lead: improving staff experience across the NHS - 1 December 9.30-4pm
      NHS Employers hosted a conference which brought together NHS professionals supporting staff experience and responsible for bringing the NHS People Promise to life. We heard from thought leaders and NHS organisations as they shared their approaches to improving staff experience.

    • University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust supported the campaign for the first time, and used this is an opportunity to raise awareness of disability equality, shared lived experiences, promoted their disability leave policy and disability passport. They also promoted the work of their Disability Support Network and how the organisation compared against national WDES benchmarks and the actions they prioritised for 2021-22.  

    • Oxleas Disability Network hosted a 'Celebrate International Day of People with Disabilities' event on 3 December 1-3pm. Speakers included Manoj Soma, a Diversity Consultant and founder of Choice International a not for-profit organisation and Alex Manners who talked about “My Life Living with Asperger’s”. 

    • North Bristol NHS Trust hosted a number of events which included:  

      Disabled and Neurodiverse Staff Group Meeting, 24 November 12.30 – 1.30pm. With Simon Wood, Director of Facilities and NBT Disability Champion.

      Disabled People and Recruitment, 2 Dec 1-2pm. This event was to find out more about the NBT recruitment process and support offered for disabled people.

      Disability Reasonable Adjustment Passport for managers and staff, 9 Dec 1–2pm.The passport provided Disabled staff and their managers an opportunity to discuss any adjustments needed and to keep a record.  

  • The UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities is held annually on 3rd December.

    #PurpleLightUp is a global movement lead by PurpleSpace that celebrates disability on 3 December. It uses the colour purple which is emblematic of disability, to drive the momentum for disability inclusion. It also draws attention to the economic contribution of the 386 million disabled employees around the world.

    Organisations were encouraged to support the #PurpleLightUp campaign, access their campaign resources, zoom background and graphics. For alternative formats please email

Disability History Month provided a platform to run a local awareness campaign and an opportunity to:

  • celebrate the achievements of staff with disabilities
  • raise awareness of what a disability is – not all disabilities are visible or immediately apparent
  • encourage leaders and managers to support staff through compassion and inclusivity
  • encourage staff to record their disability on the NHS Electronic Staff Record and have open conversations with their managers
  • check-in with staff that sufficient adjustments have been made to support those with disabilities to carry out their roles - whether that’s onsite or from home
  • review recruitment practices to ensure they are inclusive.

Social media

We shared stories and resources on Twitter @NHSE_Diversity using hashtags #NHSDHM21 and #DisabilityHistoryMonth.

Further information

Should you have any queries please contact