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A Tribute Post For Sir Bert Massie

October 22, 2017

I am very sad to have heard yesterday of the recent death of Sir Bert Massie. We never met in person but were Facebook friends for some time. RIP Sir, thank you for all your hard work for disability rights before and during my lifetime, and for your Facebook friendship.

AFTER contracting polio at three months old, Sir Bert Massie spent his life fighting for discrimination against disability to be outlawed and making the world a more accessible place for wheelchair users and those with long-term physical or mental impairment.

His drive for change came from both “a personal need and an appreciation of what was wrong”.

During the 1960s he explained that he often used to go to restaurants and “people would say: ‘We don’t serve wheelchairs’.

“And I would say: ‘Well, that’s okay, I don’t eat wheelchairs’.”

It was a typically humorous response from the fiercely proud Liverpudlian but he was the first to admit life could often be a battle.

Sir Bert turned out to be a “great champion of the possible”.

He was a leading light of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 – now replaced by the Equality Act 2010 – which makes it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities.

The son of Herbert and Lucy Massie, young Bert spent the first five years of his life at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

He then moved to the Children’s School of Rest and Recovery and Sandfield Park Special School at the age of 11.

As disabled students were not expected to study for O-levels, he left school without qualifications.

Sir Bert Massie spent his life fighting for discrimination against disability to be outlawed
His first job was operating a lift but having been told that he was unemployable he was concerned other wheelchair users were facing the same discrimination and joined the Liverpool Association for the Disabled.

He was unable to study for A-levels in his home city because none of the night schools had an accessible entrance.

Instead, he attended a specialist college in Coventry and returned to take a degree at Liverpool Polytechnic.

After obtaining a postgraduate diploma in social work from Manchester Polytechnic he joined the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (Radar) in London from 1978 to 1999, becoming chief executive in 1990.

Sir Bert served as chairman of the Disability Rights Commission from 2000 to 2007 and was founding commissioner of its successor, the Equality and Human Rights Commission. 

He was awarded the OBE in 1984, CBE in 2000 and a knighthood for “services to disabled people” in 2007.

His wife Maureen survives him.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Alan Phillips permalink
    October 22, 2017 1:51 am

    A great man who will be sadly missed.

    RIP Sir Bert with condolences to your family and friends.

  2. October 22, 2017 5:31 am

    Sad news a true legend. My rights to our to the family after hearing this. Lives a little darker without him here

  3. Cynthia Atkin permalink
    October 24, 2017 9:50 pm

    RIP bert. Absolutely loved working for you in RADAR mon the DDA. Best years of my working life. Thank you for giving me the confidence and for your friendship. My life is better after knowing you.

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