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The passing of a legend: a tribute to Vic Finkelstein / 10 March 2012

Photograph of Vic Finklestein

Close up photo of Vic Finklestein

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Having been out of things for most of the last 12 months I was saddened to hear that the political activist and god-father of the disabled people's movement Vic Finkelstein had recently died aged 73.

Originally deported from South Africa in the 60's for his support of the anti-apartheid movement, Vic was the main architect of 'The Fundamental Principles of Disability', published in 1975, which argued that the problems faced by disabled people were caused by society's failure to take account of their needs, not by their impairments.

In 1972 when Paul Hunt wrote his now famous letter to the Guardian, calling for a radical new disability organisation to be formed, Vic eagerly got involved along with other politically active disabled people in the UK.

It was the resulting organisation, called the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, that published 'The Fundamental Principles of Disability'. Not only was Vic a key participant in the discussions that produced this document, but he was the main drafter of it.

He was also prominent in setting up the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People in 1981 and became its first chair. In the same year he represented Britain at the first world congress, established by Disabled Peoples' International.

'To deny or not to deny disability' by Vic Finkelsteinhas been hugely influential to countless numbers of both disabled and non disabled people new to the Social Model. Both simple and profound, it shows how that it is society that creates the barriers, and not our ‘defective’ minds and bodies, as the Medical Model would have us believe.

Vic was also instrumental in setting up the first Open University Disability Study courses, working with Colin Barnes and others at Leeds University.

My own memories of Vic are based around the comments he used to send me whenever one of my cartoons had caught his attention. Not one to mince words was our Vic and I learned a lot from him in this way. He'll be sadly missed.

The Guardian's obituary of Vic, by Mike Oliver, can be found by clicking on this link.

Keywords: cartoons,crippen,disability history,disability professionals,disability publications,disability representation,disabled peoples movement,history of disabled people,user led organisations,vic finklestein


Arty Farty

14 March 2012

I never met Viv but like Ann I was inspired by his writings and his determination. Rest in peace big man, you are missed

Ann Young

12 March 2012

I was very sad to hear of Vic's death, he will be very much missed by all who loved him. He was a great man.

Vic was a true inspiration to me when I discovered my place in the UK Disability Movement in the mid 1980s. My whole world changed. His philosophy and writings gave me the courage to be proud, angry and strong - to use the words of Johnny Crescendo, in a world that just wanted me to be quiet, grateful and invisible. He was a true hero of our time and he was my hero. Rest in Peace, Vic. I will never forget you.

Kirsten Hearn

10 March 2012

i have vivid memories of Vic at the first Disabled People Against Apartheid demo outside Stoke Mandoville while the Paralympics was taking place. His insistance to connect causes across different oppressed groups was a powerful lesson. I too was a part of and remember Vic in those early days of seemingly endless discussions about what sort of organisation we wanted to represent us as a motly group of crips sat round trading ideas that would shape BCODP. Vic was a great comrade and is hugely missed.


10 March 2012

The Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP)also carry several articles and tributes to Vic in their current edition of the Coalition magazine.

Colin Hambrook [ED]

10 March 2012

There is also a tribute to Vic on the UK Disabled Peoples' Council website at - it gives links to a massive archive of writings by and about Vic - showing the breadth and depth of the legacy that he left to the disabled peoples' movement.