Natasha Bolger

From donkeys to a children's hospital – Manchester charity Disabled Living is celebrating providing services to the people of Manchester for 120 years

Hero image

Disabled Living is a charity that provides information and advice about products, equipment and services for disabled children, adults and older people, their carers and the professionals who support them. In addition, we support people with bladder and bowel problems through our service Bladder and Bowel UK.

In 2017, Disabled Living is celebrating 120 years of delivering services. We started out as a small Manchester-based charity called the Band of Kindness whose mission was to teach children to be kind to donkeys. The founders thought if the children were taught to be kind to animals they could, in turn, support the many thousands of disabled children in Manchester who had very little or no support in the late 1890s. The society then became known as the Band of Kindness and the Children’s Help Society, with a further name change a few years later to the Crippled Children’s Help Society.

Since losing the majority of its records in 2009 due to a fire at the premises in Cheetham, the charity has been working towards rebuilding its heritage.

A totally unexpected phone call a couple of years ago helped us to do just that. We were delighted to hear from the son of an ex-employee who had worked for Disabled Living in the 1960s. His mother had recently passed away and, while he was sorting out her house, he found a number of boxes in the attic of photographs and memorabilia relating to Disabled Living. We are very thankful to Mr Valentine who realised the importance of what he had discovered. If it wasn’t for his mother’s “hoarding”, as Mr Valentine put it, we would not be in a position to share our heritage with you in 2017.

The voices of disabled people will be recognised, preserved and celebrated

As part of its birthday celebrations Disabled Living is delivering a project, From Donkeys to Innovators, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, that will build on this. We are calling for people to get in touch who have memories, materials or photographs about their links with the charity. Hundreds of thousands of people across the North West have been involved with the organisation in its 120-year history as service users, volunteers, staff and trustees.

Most importantly, the voices of disabled people will be recognised, preserved and celebrated, documenting unique stories about disability heritage. People’s contributions to the history of Disabled Living may be included in a permanent exhibition in the charity’s Redbank House in Cheetham Hill, which launches next year, and all will be preserved in its new archive at Manchester Central Library.

Many people remain unaware that the activities they were involved with were part of the present day charity. These activities included the first wheelchair loans service in Greater Manchester, the establishment of the Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital in Marple and the provision of holidays for disabled children and adults to Blackpool, North Wales and overseas. Many older people we have recently spoken to remember getting a parcel from the Crippled Children’s Help Society at Christmas or going to a party or on an outing as a children, but did not realise the relationship to the charity as we know it today.

If you have any memories you would like to share with us, contact Natasha Bolger on 0161 214 5959 or Disabled Living ( runs its annual Kidz to Adultz North exhibition on 16 November at EventCity, Manchester – a free event for young people with disabilities and their carers and professional helpers

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Blog: Natasha Bolger

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.