Main Conent

Disability and History

People with disabilities and ideas related to disability are everywhere in American history.

black white photograph friends disability history america

Just as ethnicity and race are not Either/Or rigid classifications, neither is disability. A person is not always disabled or unable to do all things.

The often arbitrary categories that identify people and the words that describe them have shifted across eras and locations. For example, concepts of beauty and comeliness were different when physical injury, smallpox marks, and other scarring were more common.

Nor has how or if a person uses words always been a universal measure of worth. People process information in many different ways. Likewise, a person might have left school to work in a mill before learning to read, might have used a language other than English, or might have had other differences that made their writing and reading atypical.