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.


  • - Traffic: the DHM welcomes on average 7,000 unique visitors each month.

  • - The Library collection includes over 3,000 primary source documents and images, and continues to grow.

  • - Originally established in 2000, this website’s second iteration better meets the needs of today’s researcher with new graphics, improved navigation and functionality.

  • - The Education sector opens with six lessons. NEH funds helped us pilot offline an additional 18 lessons during 2009-2011. This work was done with the help of our partners Keene State College and the Collaborative for Educational Services; and we are currently seeking funds to bring that work online by autumn 2013.

  • - In 2008, we began an inventory of disability history resources located in Western Massachusetts repositories in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Public History Program. Phase one – an inventory of resources within the Pioneer Valley History Network - is now complete.

Who is the Sponsor?

All Disability History Museum activities online and off are sponsored by Straight Ahead Pictures, Inc., a 501-C-3 organization. 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.

Funding Sources

The Disability History Museum has received support from a variety of funding sources.