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Special Collections: Disability History Resources

Welcome to the Disability History Resources Guide

This resource guide highlights archives and books held at the University of Exeter Heritage Collections that may be useful for researching disability history. These resources may not always be easily identifiable via our webpages or catalogues, so we hope this guide will provide a more accessible means of exploring this material. The collections highlighted in this guide have been identified using our catalogues, but are not exhaustive. If you come across any other sources within our collections that you think should be included in this guide, we would be very pleased to hear about them.

For the purpose of this guide, the definition for disability is taken from the Equality Act 2010 to include all types of mental and physical impairments, including chronic health conditions. Deafness and blindness are also covered as these have historically been treated as disabilities. We acknowledge that many people who are covered by the definition of a disabled person may not identify as having a disability. We also recognise that there is ongoing discussion concerning terminology around disabilities. Our collections may contain offensive terms or terms that have changed meaning over time. In some cases these terms are included in our catalogue descriptions in order to provide information about the content and nature of the source. The inclusion of these terms does not reflect the views of the University of Exeter Heritage Collections and we apologise for any offence that may be caused. 

To discuss our resources in more detail, please contact us at We would welcome your feedback on our approach to this resource guide, its content and the terminology used.

Detailed guidance on researching disability history in archives can be found on the webpages of The National Archives.

A Disability and Inclusion Guide created by the University of Exeter Library provides links to e-books, digital collections and websites available to University of Exeter staff and students. A Disability History, Equality, Inclusion and Awareness Resource List is also available.

Archives and rare books held by Special Collections and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum are available to everyone. More information about accessing the collections can be found in our Visiting Heritage Collections LibGuide. Please note that there may be some restrictions on accessing and copying (including photography) material in the archives and books held by Special Collections and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in line with current data protection and copyright legislation. Always make sure to check the access conditions on the archive catalogue and email Special Collections before your visit for more information about specific restrictions.

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