The inclusion of people with visible and invisible disabilities and medical conditions in archaeology has often been viewed as difficult or impossible to achieve. This has led to a lack of  many potential volunteer and professional archaeologists with disabilities becoming involved in this worthwhile discipline.

Making archaeology welcoming and inclusive is easier than you might think. Over the past year Dig Discover Enjoy has been exploring ways to make archaeological activities open and accommodating for all. The results of this project are detailed below.


We hope you will find this information a useful guide to help make your archaeology activities accessible to all.

Dig Discover Enjoy volunteer Jamie Skuse shares his story. Video coming soon.

Theresa O'Mahony, enabled archaeologist shares her perspective on disability and archaeology. Video coming soon.

Learn about archaeology and autism in this lecture from Katy Bell.

Operation Nightingale Operation Nightingale is a project to support the rehabilitation of injured soldiers though being involved in archaeological practice. The project supports the recovery of soldiers with many different injuries both visible and invisible. The video discusses how the project was formed, how and why people participate in the project and how visible and invisible disabilities are accommodated. The video also discusses the importance of maintaining best archaeological practice in the field. More information about the project can be found on the Defense Archaeology Group webpage:

Pure Innovations and The University of Manchester


In 2015 Pure Innovations in partnership with The University of Manchester supported two volunteer archaeologists with learning disabilities to take part in an excavation and to achieve their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.


Pure Innovations is an organisation that supports people with disabilities and helps them to reach their potential and achieve social inclusion. The video below showcases how people with and without disabilities can work on site to uncover information about the past.


Take a look at the video showcasing the work of Dominic, Ellis, The University of Manchester and Pure Innovations on this website.


Dig Discover Enjoy

Over the past few years Dig Discover Enjoy have developed a relationship with local SEND family community groups. SEND stands for special education needs and disabilities. Through contact with local SEND family groups we decided to try and support children with special educational needs and disabilities to access the archaeology outreach events we host several times a year.


Local SEND groups were more than happy to share their experiences of their needs to help us to support engagement with our activities.


Using their suggestions and learning through our own experience, we now ensure that all of our outreach events are accessible and can accommodate individuals with a variety of additional needs and disabilities.

Archaeology Outreach


Dig Discover Enjoy exists to promote engagement and provide information about archaeological activity in our areas. On a yearly basis we attend open days and community events and run outreach events to promote archaeology. Having built a relationship with other local community groups we realised that we could do more to assist children and adults with additional needs to attend and take part in the activities that we offered during these events.


Detailed below is a list of our top tips for making an outreach event or an archaeological community stall accessible.





1 - Make contact with other local groups

If you haven’t already spoken to local disability or SEND groups, please get in contact and let them know you are hosting an event. In our experience, reaction to this has always been very positive and welcoming.




2 - Plan to run a variety of activities

You don’t need to offer a lot of activities if you don’t have the space, funds or volunteers: as few as two different activities will help. We try to offer different activities that will be of interest to adults and children. Some activities are designed to be hands-on, loud and messy, others can be quiet and require a bit of concentration. We try to provide some separation between quieter activities and information at one end of the stand and messier or louder activities at the other. This helps individuals who need a quieter space to feel comfortable.




3 - Provide information handouts in dyslexia friendly formatting

If you are displaying or providing information on your stall, make your information dyslexia friendly. Use a size 12-14 font and use Arial or Tahoma and avoid text in block capitals.




4 - Provide a ‘What to Expect Guide’

Once you have your activities planned, write a ‘What to Expect Guide’ to let people with social difficulties know what will happen on your stall. Email the guide in advance to the groups you are trying to support. Writing this guide has become standard practice at our outreach events and has supported a number of people to take part in our events who may not have been able to otherwise.

Top Tips

We try to follow these tips at all our outreach events. We have received some very positive feedback from a number of families who are making specific visits to take part in the activities we provide. We have found that pro-active engagement has been successful and the mechanisms put in place to support these groups have been very easy to achieve. A bit of awareness and a small effort on our part has resulted in very big rewards for the participants and for ourselves.

This is an example of our easy reading 'What to expect guide'.


It is written in simple language which allows both adults and children with low literacy levels to understand the guide. We have used lot of images to help provide visual references for the participants and the font is dyslexia friendly, written in Comic Sans, size 14.


We produce a 'What to expect guide' at all our public events and send the guide to local SEND family groups and other interested people.

Theresa O'Mahony

Theresa O’Mahony is a research student studying MA Public Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. Theresa has completed undergraduate research projects regarding disabilities in archaeology and her postgraduate research discusses ‘Enabled Archaeology’ as a way of supporting volunteer and professional archaeologists. Theresa has taken part in a number of archaeological projects including the Thames Discovery Programme, Bamburgh Research Project and Operation Nightingale. She has herself experienced many barriers to archaeological activity as a person with disabilities.


Theresa’s future plans include the founding of an Enabled Archaeology Foundation to help community groups and professionals support the inclusion of individuals with disability in archaeology. Theresa is also available for consultation on any aspect of enabled archaeology.


For more information about Enabled Archaeology contact Theresa on Facebook or Twitter:


Video interview coming soon

Theresa shares her experiences of enabled archaeology in the UK. Theresa gives practical advice and guidance on how to support disabled people to take part in archaeology and how small actions can make a big difference with enabled archaeology.

Theresa's Guides


Theresa has produced a series of guides to help people make their archaeological activities more accessible. The guides are an excellent source of practical information to help community and commercial groups support disabled participants to take part in archaeology. The information in these sources provide examples of best practice for supporting enabled archaeology. The guides also offer practical ideas at all stages of a project to involve archaeologists with disabilities and signpost to other sources for more specialist information.

Download this short, easy step by step guide to including people with disabilities in archaeology.

Theresa has provided this guide for more detailed information about disabilities and archaeology.

Read Theresa's BAJR guide for the more comprehensive information and practical tips for supporting people with disabilities in excavation.

Anarchaeologist Podcast


Theresa has also been interviewed by Anarchaeologist, part of the Archaeology Podcast Network. Theresa speaks about her own experiences as a disabled archaeologist, her current research about disabilities and archaeology and shares practical advice for how to make archaeology more inclusive.



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Find Out More

Take Small Steps

You don't have to become and expert in supporting enabled archaeology overnight. There are lots of easy strategies and suggestions on this webpage which you can start to incorporate as part of your standard approach to organising and delivering archaeological activities.


Easy steps you can take are to start producing your literature and advertisement in a dyslexia friendly font (see above). You may then wish to ask that any presentations are given in the dyslexia friendly font.


If you are organising an activity you can incorporate space for a quiet area in your event planning. Perhaps you can produce a 'What to Expect guide' and have this available for people to use.




If you are running an excavation start to incorporate support for people with invisible and visible disabilities at the planning stage. Follow Theresa's guidance to discover more about how to support enabled archaeologists. Support can be as easy as adding in additional earth steps to a trench, providing a safe zone on site and making a ramp as a trench entrance. All of which cost very little time and no additional funds.


Some basic support you can put in place can cost only a little time to provide but can be invaluable for the enabled archaeologist or volunteer who may not have been able to take part without it.




BBC Online - "My Web My Way'

How to make your adjust your browsing settings to make the web accessible if you have additional needs or disabilities

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