Why We Are Failing Disabled People

Katharine Quarmby

Published: 2 June 2011
Trade Paperback, Royal PB
153x234mm, 288 pages
ISBN: 9781846273216

Other Editions


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Published: 3 January 2013
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 288 pages
ISBN: 9781846273223

Ebook Available


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.

About the author

Image of Katharine Quarmby

Katharine Quarmby is a campaigning journalist and an award-winning film-maker. She has worked as a producer on BBC Panorama and Newsnight, news edited Disability Now magazine, served as a correspondent for the Economist and written for most of the broadsheet newspapers. She was the first British journalist to investigate disability hate crime and her report for Scope, 'Getting Away with Murder', has revolutionised thinking about the issue. Scapegoat (Portobello 2011) is her first book for adults. She won the AMIA International Literature Award for Scapegoat in 2011, and was a finalist for the Paul Foot Award in the same year, for her many years of campaigning journalism on the same subject. More about the author


‘Genuinely authoritative... Quarmby's sobering conclusion is that there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way that disabled people are viewed by society as a whole.’ Paul Cockburn



‘In Scapegoat, Quarmby documents specific crimes in chilling detail puts them into the broader context of violence and prejudice against disabled people. I cannot imagine reading a more important book this year.’

‘Katharine Quarmby has studied the plight of disabled people in this country over the past century and gathered her findings into a fireball of a book... A shocking, challenging call to action.’ Alastair Mabbot

‘This is a stomach-turning book - but it must be read.’ Dominic Lawson

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