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“How blind Victorians campaigned for inclusive education” by David Turner

The Disability Visibility Project couldn’t agree more with the following quote by blogger David Turner for the BBC:

“Disabled people’s voices are often missing from mainstream history…”

Below are excerpts from an article by David Turner for the BBC first published on September 30, 2014, “How blind Victorians campaigned for inclusive education.”

Historically, education for children with disabilities, in so far as it has existed at all, has tended to be based on segregation.

Over the past 30 years there has been a greater effort, backed up by law, to integrate disabled children into mainstream education. But in the Victorian era they often attended educational institutions supported through philanthropic fundraising.

To encourage donations, schools emphasised the “miseries” of sensory deprivation. Unhappy about these negative representations of disabled people, an un-named “intellectual blind man” of the era said: “I assure you it is not blindness, but its consequences, which we feel most painfully, and those consequences are often laid on us most heavily by the people who are loudest in their expressions of pity.”

His words cut through the Victorian representations of blindness as something to be pitied and were quoted by a group of blind campaigners who emerged to challenge the paucity of available education. They sought to reform the institutionalised approach to disability that was prominent at the time.

The names of these early activists are all but forgotten today. However, their views on the importance of including, rather than segregating, blind and deaf children, and their powerful advocacy that they should be heard and given appropriate rights, make their views seem strikingly modern.

For the entire article:

Dr David Turner is a historian at Swansea University. He was advisor on BBC Radio 4’s Disability: A New History.

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