EXPERTISE IN DISABILITY MATTERS: SIR BERT MASSIE: '… I don’t eat wheelchairs'

It is with a very deep sadness that we learned of the death of Sir Bert Massie at the age of 68 on the 15 October 2017 after  his recent illness. Born in Liverpool in 1949, Sir Massie was a wheelchair user. He contracted polio in infancy and spent his first five years receiving care at Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital. He moved to the Children’s School of Rest and Recovery And  to Sandfield Park Special School at the age of eleven.
After leaving school, he began working for the Liverpool Association for the Disabled. While there he decided to study O-levels and as no evening classes were accessible to a wheelchair user, he received tuition from nuns at a local convent. He then left his job to study for A-levels at Hereward College, a Special needs college in Coventry.
 In 1977 he was graduated from Liverpool Polytechnic with a B.A.  He then attended Manchester Polytechnic completing a Certificate of Qualification in Social Work.
In 1978, he joined the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) , serving as chief executive for 11 years and went  on to crusade for a better deal for people with disabilities.
A Few quotes from Sir Bert Massie
It was a common occurrence in the 60s... “I’d go to a restaurant and people would say: ‘We don’t serve wheelchairs’.
“And I would say: ‘Well that’s okay, I don’t eat wheelchairs’.”
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“When I left school my first job was driving a lift up and down in Water Street – having been told I was unemployable.  But how after an assessment can an occupational therapist say whether you can work or you cannot?
“I’m not sure they would be able to assess my abilities. And even if I accepted their decision – which I didn’t – what do they understand about the demands of industry? They were comparing the peg against a hole whose size they didn’t know or understand.”
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People in greatest need are having the greatest burden placed on their shoulders,” he says.  “We have a government promoting disabled people as scroungers or heroes.
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Soldier who stands on a landmine and becomes disabled is a hero.
“But what about the fireman or woman who goes into a burning building, knowing the dangers; or the person born with a disability?
“They are trying to get people to turn on one another and that is barbaric.
“It will get to the point where the suffering will be so great governments won’t be able to ignore it.”
Until then: “We are letting people down.”
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Sir Bert Massie was appointed OBE in 1984 on Queen's Birthday Honours. In 2000 he was promoted CBE for services to The National - New Year Honours . From 2000 to 2007, he was the  first and only chairman of the Disability Rights Commission. Massie was to be made a knight Bachelor for services to Disabled People and  he was knighted at Buckingham Palace by Charles, Prince of Wales. In 2014, he was commissioned a Deputy Lieutenant to the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside
Sir Bert – a champion of disability rights, devoted his life to helping to bring about the changes which have seen discrimination disability outlawed and changes made to make the world a more accessible place for people with disabilities (although there is yet more to be done).
We will miss his contribution and expertise in disability matters, as well as his warm manner and distinctive sense of humour.