Main Conent

People with disabilities have been present throughout American history.

Many stories and events related to people with disabilities never make it into the history books or shared public memories. Familiar concepts and events such as citizenship, work, and wars become more complicated, challenge our assumptions about what counts as history, and transform our connection with each other when viewed from the historical perspective of people with disabilities, America’s largest minority.

Knowing these histories deepens understanding of the American experience and reveals how complicated history really is. In addition, when history comes through artifacts, distinct themes emerge—for example, the significance of place, relationships, and technology—that are less apparent when only books and words are used.

people objects disability history america

These four images of people and objects illustrate the rich and varied history of disability found in this web exhibition. All images are from the National Museum of American History unless otherwise noted.