Disability is a contested term that covers a number of physical and mental impairments. Relatively few people are born with disabilities; most of us acquire impairments through disease or accident.

Anyone who lives long enough finds that their ability to see, hear and move around diminishes. In that sense, disability affects everyone. Yet people with long-term disabilities face both prejudice and continual problems accessing basic facilities and services.

During the early part of the 20th century, there was a tendency to place people with impairments in institutions. This separated them from the rest of the community.

In London, institutional care for disabled people fell within the remit of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. Part of its task was to build institutions to house the intellectually impaired, the mentally ill, the physically disabled, and people with visual, hearing and speech impairments.

The First and Second World Wars were significant for Londoners with disabilities. Medical staff working with injured soldiers made advances into the treatment of mental and physical disabilities. At the same time, disabled people previously excluded from employment were drafted in to do essential jobs in London left vacant by those who had gone abroad to fight.

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