Throughout 2017, Disabled Living – one of Manchester’s oldest charities – is celebrating 120 years of supporting and helping thousands of disabled people of all ages across the region to lead a more independent life.

This is a phenomenal achievement for an organisation that began life in 1897 as the “Band of Kindness and Children’s Help Society” to encourage people to be kind to donkeys, and in turn their fellow citizens.

It has been reincarnated several times along the way – from The Crippled Children’s Help Society and The Cripples Help Society; changing in 1985 to the Disabled Living Services and finally in 1992 to Disabled Living as it is know today.

A remarkable feat saddened only by a fire in 2009 which resulted in the loss of many of its precious archive materials.

But true to the charity’s indomitable spirit and survival instinct, Disabled Living is determined to rebuild its heritage. In order to do so, it is asking members of the public to come forwards with their personal stories, images, anecdotes, experiences and materials that relate to the organisation’s significant past – so that it can be preserved and fully celebrated in a brand new exhibition to open in Manchester next year – From Donkeys to Innovators.

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – From Donkeys to Innovators will open in February 2018 at Disabled Living’s Redbank House in Cheetham Hill to pay homage to the charity’s history, preserving the voices and unique stories and experiences of disabled people from the North West over the past 120 years.

Additional archive material will also be saved and safely maintained in Manchester Central Library’s Archives+.

Due to the charity’s length of service and title changes, many people remain unaware that the activities they were involved in as a child, youth, carer or employee were with what is now known as Disabled Living.

These activities included the first wheelchair loans service in Greater Manchester; the establishment of the Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital in Marple; the provision of holidays for thousands of disabled children and adults to Blackpool, North Wales and overseas; a residential provision for disabled adults at Tan Y Bryn in Abergele, North Wales; fashion and style advice and support about the use of innovative equipment to enable a more independent way of life.

Over the years, a myriad of organisations have also been involved with the charity from The Guardian and Manchester Evening News, the Disabled Drivers’ Association, Manchester Art Gallery, the Jewish Ex-Servicemen, Derbyshire Miners, Manchester United Football Club, the British Red Cross Society, and Greater Manchester Police, indicating the charity’s important place in the social history of Greater Manchester.

People who are prepared to share their stories, or any photographs or materials they might have about Disabled Living’s heritage, are asked to contact Natasha Bolger at Disabled Living on 0161 214 5959 or email No stories or images will be included in any of the public materials without the express permission of the individual involved.

Debra Evans, Disabled Living’s Chief Executive said, “The history of Disabled Living is the stories of the people who were involved with the charity from the disabled people who used its services to the volunteers who packed the Christmas hampers and the nurses who worked at the Marple hospital. People’s memories are what bring the charity to life and we want to have a chance to celebrate and thank the individuals who helped to create the charity that we have today.”


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