DPI History

The Birth of DPI

Rachel Hurst, 2005

Why did DPI happen? It happened because disabled people grabbed an opportunity and because, among the 250 disabled people gathered at Rehabilitation International Congress of 2-3,000 non-disabled rehabilitation and charity experts in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1980, there were the thinkers from UPIAS and the independent living activists from North America. Those 250 disabled people, who came from all over the world, recognised their shared exclusion and oppression. They saw the commonality of their discrimination as a people whose humanity was removed. They saw that they should no longer be dehumanised as objects of pity and charity - as consumers of rehabilitation and medical services -


but as people who were born free and equal in rights and dignity. As a result they conceived a worldwide movement which was born a year later in 1981 in Singapore (DPI 1981). The manifesto, constitution, action plan and Congress Declaration agreed in Singapore, all focused on the ‘full and equal participation of disabled people in society’ and saw the implementation of rights as the solution. DPI moved the definition of disability away from the individual to limitations in society.

The European countries represented at this first congress were: Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Portugal and the UK. Liam Maguire from Ireland and Bengt Lindqvist from Sweden had been on the Steering Committee and they both went on to the first World Council as officers, with added European representation fromVic Finkelstein from the UK and Ann-Marit Saebones from Sweden. The DPI Constitution required five regional councils: Africa, Latin America, Asia/Pacific, North America and Caribbean, and Europe. 

© DPI 2018