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The 1970 Cronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act in brief


Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act

The 1970 Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, described as a Magna Carta for the disabled transformed the lives of millions, not only people who were disabled and infirm, but also their families and carers, their neighbours and communities.

It also brought lasting change in our built environment, our streetscapes and our public transport.

It gave millions of people with disabilities opportunities to go into higher education, training and employment which had been denied to them, since time began, for lack of ramps, handrails, Accessible lifts and other practical aids.  

It allowed them to be more active, enjoy a fuller social life and stay in better physical and mental health.  

It freed time, energy and financial resources for carers and families

These are the specific provisions set down in The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act to improve access and support for people with disabilities. 


Education and support at home   

It made the world's first statutory provision for purpose-built housing for disabled people and entitled them to help in adapting their homes.  

It gave them the right to practical assistance in their homes (including the installation of telephones for the house-bound) and access to transport and other services outside the home. In the first decade of the Act, members of the Post Office Engineering Union installed 70,000 telephone lines in their spare time for a nominal charge of two pence per fitting, which was then donated to disability charities.  

The Act gave people with disabilities the right to equal access across the Built environment both in recreational and educational facilities. This included providing assistance with travel, all to be provided by local authorities.  

Councils were also given the duty of providing special educational facilities for children who were both blind and deaf.  

This was extended to include autism and dyslexia, with the expectation that the level of education provided was to the same level as that available in other local authority schools.  

 Access to public buildings 

A code of practice was introduced for buildings that were open to the public, requiring them to provide parking, where applicable, and sanitary facilities for people with disabilities.  

Local authorities were also required to provide disabled access to public toilets and were given the power to order owners of buildings to conform to the act and provide toilet and other facilities that were accessible to all.  

This included school, universities, railways, shops and offices.  

Disabled badges   

Disabled badges for cars were introduced with exemptions for parking and other access.  

Again, local authorities were given the responsibility for the administration and enforcement.  

Provision was also made for the use of what were called "invalid carriages", now mobility scooters, to be used on public roads, but also on footpaths and pavements, removing the threat of prosecution.  

This section was added to the bill specifically because of Alf Morris's own experience of his family being unable to access places that others took for granted.  

Representation on public bodies   

Whilst not a statutory requirement, the 1970 Act made it clear that representation of people with knowledge and experience of disability should be increased on local authority committees and other public bodies.  

This was the first step on the road to increasing representation of a part of society that had long been ignored.  

The Act spoke of "the desirability of appointing to the committee persons with experience of work among and of the needs of the chronically sick and disabled, and to the person or persons with that experience being or including a chronically sick or disabled person or persons."  

Segregation in hospitals   

Young and elderly patients were to be separated in wards in hospitals and in local authority-provided residential accommodation.  

This recognition was particularly important in the area of mental health.  

The Act provided that there should be accommodation for people with mental health disorders and substantial disabilities that was separate from that for the elderly.  

War pensions   

Alf Morris's father lived with the legacy of being severely gassed in World War I and, as a child, Alf saw himself as part of a disabled family, so believed it was important not just to support a disabled person, but their family as whole.  

Section 23 of the Act specifically addressed War Pensions, creating a process for appealing pension decisions.  

Alf's father had died of a heart attack and his mother was told she was not entitled to a widower's war pension as her husband's death was not related to his injuries during the war.  

It was years before she was given the pension and it meant hardship for the family in one of the most deprived areas of Manchester 


The Act has been followed and sometimes directly imitated in most countries around the world. Savings have been made in health and welfare payments, plus increasing national output and tax receipts bringing many benefits to global society

In the words of Lord Alf Morris “This act was a necessity”



   By John Bedwell    Obvius Access    2015


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