Celebrating disability history


This month (November 22 to December 22) is UK Disability History Month and the Oral History Society would like to raise awareness of the many rich collections and projects recording the life stories of disabled people.

Some examples are given below, but we are aware that this is only a tiny proportion of the work going on. Please send details of your work to include on the member projects section of our website. To submit your project click here.

We will also be featuring extracts of interviews with disabled people on our Facebook page throughout the month and would be delighted to include any sound clips. We will, of course, link these back to your own website. If you have ideas for how the OHS can do more to support projects focusing on disability history then email Sarah Lowry: sarah@hearinghistory.com

Hidden Now Heard is a three-year project run by Mencap Cymru, recording the memories of residents and staff of six long stay hospitals in Wales, the last of which closed in 2006. The exhibition will tour to six museums, and there will be a permanent display of the project’s research at The National Museum of Wales. To read more about the project and some of the issues the leaders are grappling with click here.

The Disability Voices Collection at the British Library is a collection of recordings including, Speaking for Ourselves, an oral history of people with cerebral palsy, Unheard Voices, interviews with deafened people, and interviews with Paralympians, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Danny Crates.

Share – The Deaf Visual Archive developed by the British Deaf Association, features hundreds of fascinating short films showing a range of activities activities organised by the deaf community. A recently created feature length documentary, Power in Our Hands, drawing on both archive footage and new interviews, will be touring the UK in 2016.

One Door Closes Another Door Opens is a publication by Waltham Forest Oral History Workshop about the life of Tom Atkins, who contracted polio at three and spent the next seven years isolated from his family.

The Open University’s Social History of Learning Disability Research Group researches and disseminates learning disability history. Its website includes information on their fascinating projects, many of which include the recording of oral histories. It also lists books and articles published by group members, recent news, and details of upcoming conferences.

How was School? is an Alliance for Inclusive Education project, designed and delivered by disabled people, that highlights disabled people’s experiences of education over the past 100 years. The project’s website includes multiple extracts from interviews, a school pack and worksheets. The full interviews can be accessed at the British Library.

100 Years, 100 Voices celebrates the centenary in 2015 of the charity Blind Veterans in the UK. The website includes readings of historical material as well as extracts from new recordings.