Recommended Reading: Disability History

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As many of our posts have suggested, the history of disability is long, rich, and nowhere near as well known as it ought to be. Below are some websites and podcasts that illuminate the history of the people, laws and policies, medical and technological developments, and social movements that have shaped the world of disability that we have today.

Disability History Museum

A seated woman reads a book and drinks coffee

The Disability History Museum (DHM) is a virtual project, seeking to help deepen people’s understanding of how shifting cultural values, notions of identity, laws, and policies have shaped the experience of people with disabilities, and how those experiences are vital to everyone’s lives. With a board and advisors made up largely of disability historians and activists, the DHM features a vast array of resources. Their library is made up of documents and visuals associated with the history of people with disabilities, which can be easily searched through by collection, format, source, keywords, and dates, or browsed by topic. The museum also provides educational lessons, each with their own objectives, materials, and study guide, as well as teaching tools. The DHM website also has a “feature” tab, which showcases specific disability stories in depth, and the archive of their blog, DisMuse.

Public Disability History

A blog and forum, Public Disability History is a website that gathers and shares resources on the history of disabilities, as well as fosters an open and democratic exchange within a diverse community of people with disabilities, historians, activists, educators, and others. Their editors-in-chief and editorial board, who are responsible for the content uploaded by contributors, are historians from across the globe. They combine and present many existing research traditions in a way that is accessible to everyone and promotes discussion. Their archive can be simply scrolled through on their home page, or explored by utilizing their “labels” section of keywords.


For those who prefer their histories in audible format, there are myriad options of podcast episodes and series by, for, and about people with disabilities. For disability history, we have a few recommendations that make good starting points.

First, there is the Disability History Association Podcast, which is available on the Association’s website. The podcast features students, researchers, teachers, activists, and more, each sharing a unique piece of disability history. The Disability History Association website also has a biannual newsletter, a list of scholarly books, articles, and dissertations, and sample syllabi for educators.

Produced by BBC Radio 4, Disability: A New History is hosted by veteran broadcast journalist Peter White, who has been blind since birth. A New History draws on modern research to present information about disability in the 18th and 19th centuries, across 10 short-form episodes. The podcast is available in full on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, as well as on the BBC website, which also features additional clips and a gallery of images associated with the subject matter. 

Finally, there are a number of historical, narrative, and pop culture podcasts that feature rich individual episodes about disability history:

15 Minute History’s 92nd episode, “Disability History in the United States”, provides a brief overview on how organizations and activist groups have dealt with stigma and fought for disability rights – in addition to their website, the episode is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

The 4th season of Yarn, “Disability: A Parallel History” – available on Yarn’s website, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, among other platforms – is presented in three parts by John Roche, who has cerebral palsy, and sheds light on the darker parts of disability history.

Another BBC Radio 4 production, author and historian Greg Jenner’s You’re Dead to Me features famed disabled comedian Rosie Jones and historian Dr. Jane Draycott on the episode “Disability in the Ancient World”, covering over 1,000 years of disability history – in addition to the BBC website, the episode is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Acast.

Lastly, Factually! with Adam Conover discusses the mentality shift and history of disability rights, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in the episode “The Extraordinary History of the Disability Rights Movement with Judy Heumann”, which is available on Spotify, Earwolf, and Stitcher, as well as Apple Podcasts.

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