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Archaeology from a Disabled Enabled Perspective

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O’Mahony, T. 2016
London Archaeologist, Autumn 2016, Volume 14, Number 10, p 265 – 269.

Before introducing my research, I need to define disability and explain my disabled experience. There are two types of disability: visible and invisible. Visible disabilities are those that any person can see, whether it be a wheelchair or loss of limbs. The beholder knows the person is disabled; therefore, the disabled person has no choice but to display their disability. Whereas invisible disabilities may not be seen; the disabled person is given the choice as to whether they reveal their disability by using, for instance, a white stick but developmental conditions such as dyspraxia and autism can be invisible.

In my younger years I was ablebodied, running upstairs and climbing mountains. Recently I find climbing up steps equivalent to climbing a mountain because of severe pain. This makes me light-headed and dizzy, affecting my concentration. My quality of life and independence have been affected by disability.

However, I refuse to accept that my limitations will stop me participating in archaeology. If enabled through acceptance, my mountain would be easier to climb. Unfortunately, experience of exclusion barriers makes my mountain almost insuperable. Full acceptance, meeting needs with a ‘can do’ attitude, can enable a disabled person to achieve their full potential.

Disabled archaeologists form just two per cent of the UK archaeological workforce, reflecting badly on some archaeological communities. These issues need to be addressed in archaeology; otherwise we may miss valuable archaeological contributions. In the UK over half of the public (67%) are ill-at-ease talking to a disabled person, indicating a negative attitude towards disability. Can this be applied to archaeology? The aim of my dissertation was to ascertain what negative attitudes towards disabled inclusion exist within archaeology and once identified, what remedies might be suggested.