The 1970 Cronically Sick
and Disabled Persons Act in
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
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
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
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.
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
This included school, universities, railways, shops and offices.
Disabled badges for cars were introduced with exemptions for parking and
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
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
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
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."
Young and elderly patients were to be separated in wards
in hospitals and in local authority-provided residential
This recognition was particularly important in the area of mental
The Act provided that there should be accommodation for people
with mental health disorders and substantial disabilities that was separate from that for the
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
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
By John Bedwell Obvius Access 2015