At the Centre for Disability Studies we were very sad to hear of the death of Professor Michael (Mike) Oliver on 3rd March 2019. Since we posted the sad news to the @CDSLeeds twitter timeline, we have received so many beautiful messages about Mike his influence, impact and legacy. In this blog we do two things. First, we have captured just a few of the many comments that were made in response to our tweet, these appear as screen-shots interspersed with the text below (alt-text enabled). We thank all of the authors. Second, we have written this blog as our memorial to Mike. This is the first part of our tribute, which will continue later this evening and tomorrow.
~ From the Centre for Disability Studies, Leeds ~
“Michael (Mike) Oliver will be forever regarded as a pioneer of UK Disability Studies. He had an essential role in challenging the assumptions that suggested disabled people are marginalised on the basis of their health conditions and impairments. Through his activism and academia, he developed a coherent and persuasive argument that shifted our understanding of disability towards a social interpretation. Of the many outstanding contributions he has made to Disability Politics and Disability Studies, his work on the social model of disability became – and remains – essential for challenging social injustice.
The clarity and accessibility of his writing has led to various arguments, including alternative theories, to emerge within Disability Studies and across activist networks. This is to be welcomed as it will further debate and action to address the marginalisation of disabled people. Yet his materialist account of disability – which explored the relationship between disability and capitalism – will remain significant to current and future research and action.
Professor Oliver recognised the importance of articulating the ideas of the social model of disability to a wide, diverse audience. His academic teaching, dating back to the mid-1970s, centred upon an exploration of how the personal troubles of disabled people were typically created by the disabling barriers within society. To achieve this, his teaching materials and writings often reflected the understanding of disability as outlined in the Fundamental Principles document (created by the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation). Through his collaboration with disabled activists and disabled people’s organisations, Oliver demonstrated perfectly the Sociological Imagination (proposed by C.W. Mills), transforming disability from a personal and private trouble to a public issue, one that remains a matter of social justice.
His extensive publications, which include journal articles, books and keynote speeches, has challenged all of us to consider how disabled people’s historical and contemporary experiences are captured, articulated and used as a way to bring about emancipation. Michael Oliver will never be forgotten.”