Disabled American History Resources
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APH Perspectives
This site, sponsored by the American Printing House for the Blind, has a number of exhibits from their Callahan Museum, including Building a Future: U.S. Residential Schools for Blind and Visually Impaired Students and the Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field.

Blindness: Is History Against Us?
This speech by Kenneth Jernigan, president of the National Federation of the Blind, is a fascinating foray into historic figures who were blind, most of whom are still unknown today. In another speech, Blindness: The Lessons of History, Jernigan gives the four decade history of the National Federation. Other speeches given at the NFB's annual convention can be found online by clicking here.

Braille History
The Blindness Resource Center of the New York Institute for Special Education has an excellent section on its website detailing the history of braille. Not only does the section have a biography of Louis Braille and links to many other biographies of Braille, it also contains information on Valentin Hauy and shows other tactile writing systems for the blind. 

A Brief History of Tactile Writing Systems...
Written by Dr. Holly Copper of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, this paper on the various tactile writing systems developed for the blind includes excellent photos and illustrations.

Deaf/Blind History
The resources in this section provide information about how people with deafblindness or other disabilities lived, worked, and were viewed by society in the past, and how that past has shaped the present day.

Deaf History Timeline
A useful timeline that begins with capsule biographies of major figures in deaf history internationally and then becomes more detailed and event-oriented in the modern era.

Deaf History - Martha's Vineyard
This website gives a short introduction into the culture that developed on Martha's Vineyard as a result of the hereditary deafness of
many 19th century residents.

Disability Social History Project
This site contains a brief timeline of important events in the history of disability in the world and exhibits on such subjects as freak shows and historic disability campaigns.

The Disability Rights Movement
This online exhibit from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History uses images, objects, and text to present a history of the movement.

Dummy Hoy
This website celebrates the life and career of major league baseball player William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy. 

This site is maintained by a scholarly discussion group that explores the historical issues surrounding the experience and phenomenon of 'disability.'

History Through Deaf Eyes
Developed by Gallaudet University, History Through Deaf Eyes is a traveling social history exhibition aligning nearly 200 years of United States history with the experiences of deaf people. This site describes the exhibit and shows portions of it. It also gives information for booking the exhibit.

History of Blindness
A page of the American Action Fund's website, The History of Blindness provides a good, if short, introduction to the subject written by James Omvig.

History of Cerebral Palsy
A short essay explaining the development of a scientific understanding of Cerebral Palsy. Another short history can be found on the site Living With Cerebral Palsy.

Lesson Plan: History of the Disability Rights Movement
This is a lesson plan created by the Anti-Defamation League. It was created so that students could "examine how past prejudicial attitudes and social exclusion of people with disabilities led to the rise of a nation wide, grassroots movement for the recognition of equal rights, equal access and equal treatment of people with disabilities." It was designed for grades 10-12. The site includes handouts such as "A Brief history of the Disabilities Rights Movement," a handout, "History of the Treatment of Disability in Pictures and Words, 1849 – 1939" and a slide show, "History of Disability Rights & Self-Determination in Pictures and Words (Post-1940)"  

Museum of disABILITY History
Founded by People, Inc. the online elements of the museum--which is located in Buffalo, New York--has sections on the media representations of people with disabilities, as well as a history of the medical establishment's treatment of people with disabilites and society's treatment of people with disabilities. The site also has a search engine that enables online visitors to find specific items in the museum's collections.

Parallels in Time: A History of Developmental Disabilities
The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities has created a wonderful site that presents man's understanding and treatment of developmental disabilities from 1500 BC through the modern era.

The Sound and the Fury
The website for this PBS special contains an illustrated timeline, interviews, resources, and lesson plans.

Timeline: History of Gallaudet and the Deaf Community
Gallaudet University Archives has created an excellent, simple timeline of the history of the deaf community from 1000 B.C. to the present.


There are many images on the websites listed above. Also many of the sites listed in our guide to Image Research Online contain images of people with disabilities that can be retrieved with some careful searching. If necessary, try using older terms that are no longer in use such as "crippled," "handicapped," or "retarded." These terms might have been part of an original caption that was transcribed to the website.

Also try Rochester Images (New York). This database of over 22,000 images contains some amazing photographs. Of particular interest are the photographs taken by Albert R. Stone for various 1920s era articles in the Rochester Herald. Type in the search terms "disabled" or "handicapped" to begin searching. The images are for non-commercial, personal, educational, or research use only. Excellent download quality.


For some of the most comprehensive books on the subject of people with disabilities, go to our Books page.


Top: Dummy Hoy as a young man. Center: Deaf actor Dean Cannavino as major league baseball player "Dummy" Hoy in The Signal Season of Dummy Hoy by Allen Meyer and Michael Nowak,(Courtesy of Meyer and Nowak) Bottom: Dummy Hoy as an older man.