About: Overview

Mission Statement

The Disability History Museum's mission is to foster a deeper understanding about how changing cultural values, notions of identity, laws and policies have shaped and influenced the experience of people with disabilities, their families and their communities over time.

Our Goal

The Disability History Museum is a virtual project, it has no bricks or mortar. It aims to provide all site visitors, people with and without disabilities, researchers, teachers and students, with a wide array of tools to help deepen their understanding of human variation and difference, and to expand appreciation of how vital to our common life the experiences of people with disabilities have always been.

Why We Do What We Do

Social struggles of many kinds—civil rights, labor issues, suffrage, immigration and assimilation, the provision of health care for all—make it clear that history is useful for understanding the experiences and problems we encounter in the present. According to the US Census of 2000, there are 54 million Americans living with disabilities. UN figures put the number of people living with disabilities around the globe at 650 million, or, taking families into account, they report two billion people are affected by the experience of disability.

Young people growing up in the United States today have never lived in a built environment that was not notably accessible, where a public education was not provided to a person with a disability. The access and the education may not be perfect, but both are established as important community responsibilities. Yet, legislative change alone doesn't change attitudes, and awareness must be raised and assumptions challenged. This is true in nations with developed economies as well as those emerging onto the modern international network of nations. The UN Convention on Disability Rights provides a bridge, making human rights guarantees to all people with disabilities a goal, but the work of implementing these ideals will take significant financial effort and human resources.


Looking to the Future:

The Disability History Museum, founded in 2000 as a born digital project, is heading towards its 25th anniversary. That’s a long time on the web! We currently, calendar year end 2022, average 100,000 unique annual visitors. Looking forward we are actively exploring how to make a significant and collaborative transition, one that will allow the DHM to be a technically and economically sustainable online resource.

The newsletters below have been part of the effort to keep an emerging group, initially called The Disability History/Archives Consortium, informed about each other’s activities. DH/AC potential members first met in 2013 at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library Special Collections. A larger group came together in 2015-2018, with a conference held at UT Arlington with the help of the UTA’s Library Special Collections & Archives and UTA’s Disability Studies Minor programs. Here is a link to that grant’s White Paper, funded by NEH Grant PW 234883.

Since 2020, a subset of these original collaborators and some new groups continue to pursue the goal of a national aggregated digital collaboration that could develop and promote the integration of disability history collections, their preservation, access, discovery, curation and use by educators, students, and the general public.


Who is the Sponsor?

All Disability History Museum activities online and off are sponsored by Straight Ahead Pictures, Inc., a 501-C-3 organization founded in Conway, MA in 1989. Straight Ahead’s mission is to create innovative media projects and educational forums that use archival materials and oral history to foster community dialog about contemporary social issues. It has the capacity to dba The Disability History Museum.

Funding Sources

The Disability History Museum’s projects and programs have received support from a variety of funding sources.