Myth-Busting Medieval Disability | National Humanities Center

Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

Myth-Busting Medieval Disability

Disability Studies; Middle Ages; Teaching

Kisha G. Tracy (Associate Professor, English Studies, Fitchburg State University)

January 30, 2024

Advisor: Gretchyn Bedard, NHC Teacher Advisory Council

The topic of disability heritage rarely receives the attention that it deserves, despite the fact that people with disabilities are integral to every society and every time period. The discomfort many feel at engaging with disability—and, further, with disability studies—stems from long-standing stigma and from a fear of understanding that any person at any time may experience disability, either themselves or through someone close to them. Emphasizing disability heritage helps to alleviate this stigma and fear, affecting how people with disabilities are treated and understood today. Popular myths about disability in the Middle Ages in particular tend to be rather grim, assuming that people with disabilities were always treated with disdain if not outright violence. While these experiences certainly existed, the reality of medieval disability is far more complex and dynamic.

This webinar will help educators navigate preconceptions about medieval disability and illuminate the heritage of disability. By the end, educators will be able to teach about disability heritage using examples of individuals with disabilities, their experiences, and how they were treated in the past; how the field of disability studies applies to the Middle Ages; and how historical disability helps us understand and discuss modern disability.


Literature / History / Disability Studies / Middle Ages / Teaching /


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