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Disability, diversity and equality

British sociologist Tom Shakespeare spoke yesterday at CERN about disability and particle physics


On Tuesday, 28 May, as part of CERN's diversity programme the British sociologist Tom Shakespeare gave a talk entitled  “From Newton to Hawking and beyond: why disability equality is relevant to the world of particle physics”. Among his other activities, from 2008 to 2013 Shakespeare worked for the Disability and Rehabilitation programme of the World Health Organisation. He currently teaches medical sociology at the University of East Anglia Medical School.

In his talk he underlined the extreme diversity of types of handicap in the world, pointing out that 15% of the world's population lives with some form of handicap and that disability is something that concerns us all. Shakespeare lamented the discrimination to which the handicapped are too often exposed and stressed that “People are handicapped by society not by their bodies”. Citing famous examples from physics, Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, he demonstrated that disability is in no way a handicap to a brilliant career and that it is incumbent upon society to find ways of ensuring that the handicapped are integrated into professional life.

“It is an important part of the CERN diversity programme to ensure that disability is seen as a form of diversity and that our colleagues with disabilities feel included and able to contribute fully to our common goals,” says diversity programme leader Sudeshna Datta-Cockerill.

Shakespeare’s talk was filmed and will be available on the Diversity web page from next week.  Stay tuned.