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Synopsis

Every few months there’s a shocking news story about the sustained, and often fatal, abuse of a disabled person. It’s easy to write off such cases as bullying that got out of hand, terrible criminal anomalies or regrettable failures of the care system, but in fact they point to a more uncomfortable and fundamental truth about how our society treats its most unequal citizens. In Scapegoat, Katharine Quarmby looks behind the headlines to trace the history of disability and our discomfort with disabled people, from Greek and Roman culture through the Industrial Revolution and the origins of Britain’s asylum system to the eugenics movement and the Holocaust, the introduction of “Ugly Laws” in the US and the unintended consequences of Britain’s poorly planned “community care” initiative. Quarmby also charts the modern disability rights movement from the veterans of WW2 and Vietnam in the US and UK to those who have fought for independent living and the end of segregation, as well as equal rights, for the last twenty years. Combining fascinating examples from history with tenacious investigation and powerful first person interviews, Scapegoat will change the way we think about disability – and about the changes we must make as a society to ensure that disabled people are seen as equal citizens, worthy of respect, not targets for taunting, torture and attack.

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