This project has been funded and supported by the Comic Relief Fund.
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.
People with visible and invisible disabilities and medical conditions face barriers to engaging with archaeology and with working within the field but with a little support and understanding these barriers can be removed. Here are some perspectives on how medical conditions and disabilities have affected people's lives and their relationship with archaeology and how these barriers have been overcome.
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.
Inclusive Archaeology Projects
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.
Inclusive Archaeology Case Studies
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.
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.
Examples of the types of activities you can host on a stand can be found on our Education Pages.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Listen to this moving and informative interview on the Anarchaeologist website.
Enabled Archaeology - What You Can Do
Display Grace's Sign
Display Grace's Sign on your website, in your handouts and materials and on site to show that you welcome people with visible and invisible disabilities in your activities. Please email dig discover enjoy for a copy of the sign you can use on your literature email@example.com .
We are using the sign on our webpages and on our handouts to show our activities welcome people with invisible and visible disabilities.
Grace's sign was designed by Grace Warnock, a 10 year old with an invisible disability. Grace felt that people did not understand that people with invisible disabilities need support as well as people with visible disabilities so she designed a new accessibility sign which now hangs in the Scottish parliament. Grace has kindly given her permission to use the sign to show that local archaeology activities are accessible to people with both visible and invisible disabilities. Thank you to Grace and her mum.
Read more about the story of Grace and her sign on the Grace's Sign Facebook page.
Find Out More
Use this webpage as a starting point to learn about visible and invisible disability and how it affects individuals in archaeology. Whether you are running a community archaeology group meeting or a full scale excavation, there is information on this webpage to help you support enabled archaeologists. If you have specific questions about supporting particular disabilities you can contact Theresa O'Mahony for advice. There are also support groups and advocacy organisations that support people with specific disabilities and medical conditions that will be happy to share information about the needs of participants or the nature of their visible or invisible disability.
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.
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