HomeeducationWhere Are the Invisible Disabilities in Our History?

One day, I’d like to visit this museum. I don’t know if they’d have much about learning disabilities or other invisible disabilities, but I’m happy it exists.

Growing up, I hated history classes. They were always taught in ways I couldn’t comprehend, and it was as if the text book authors specialized in turning lifetimes into cardboard cut outs. As I got older, I learned that history is actually a series of stories. With every year that passes, the more stories I find, and the more facets to those stories show up.

Yes, I’ve become something of a history geek. Don’t ask me to spout facts, but there are stories I enjoy sharing. Those stories influence the world of today, and the cultural constructs they’ve built will influence the world of tomorrow.

The more I read, watch and listen, the more I realize how hidden disability is within those stories. Our history classes still need a lot of work, but I have noticed a slow acknowledgement of people of color and various genders. That’s wonderful, and there’s still a long way to go, but the hard work of advocates and open minded scholars is making an impact.

Disability, however, seems to remain something of a hidden aspect. For example, Winston Churchill had others do his reading and writing, because of his dyslexia, but that’s never mentioned. Many members of the Kennedy family also had various forms of learning disabilities.

While FDR’s and Woodrow Wilson’s wheelchairs were sometimes mentioned, invisible disabilities were never mentioned in class. While that may not be important to the world of standardized tests, that omission is part of why invisible disabilities and learning differences are still seen as they are.

I’m a strong believer in the concept of teaching history as inclusively as possible. The old adage is “the winner writes the history”, and that’s been very true, but why can’t we change it? Isn’t it about time that we include all groups in our history classes instead of segregating them into different courses offered only in colleges, or high schools (if they’re lucky)?

There’s value in demonstrating the role all types of people have in building today’s world. If we can show younger generations that all groups have a big role in history, perhaps we can take some power away from the prejudice that hurts so many people today.


Where Are the Invisible Disabilities in Our History? — 2 Comments

  1. There are so many figures in history who have had disabilities, hidden or not. Franklin Roosevelt having to hide the fact that he used a wheelchair is one example frequently cited today, but there are others. You are right, too, in that people (disabled or not) have different learning styles. I loved history in school, but I knew at the same time that it was never taught in a way that would really appeal to most people.

  2. That's very true! The disappearing act we pull on disabilities in our history classes, and even in modern day news sometimes, is indicitive of how misunderstood the whole concept of disability is in our culture.

    My husband enjoyed his history classes, too, and it's wonderful that you both liked them! It's an extremely important subject, and I wish it was offered in more ways, so more people could learn to love it, too.

    There's a fantastic youtube channel, Crash Course, that addresses history in a holistic, entertaining way. They also provide the resources from which they got their information, too.

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