Researchers are seeking volunteers to take part in a project that will trace how the educational experiences of disabled people have changed over the last 100 years.
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), which is working on the What Did You Learn at School Today? project with the British Library, is looking for between 50 and 60 disabled people from across England who are willing to be interviewed about their experiences.
The project was awarded a grant of nearly £180,000 in March to create a public archive of oral histories, which will be stored by the British Library.
The collection of personal memories will also be used by colleges and schools to “bring to life debates on citizenship, equality and diversity”, while a new website will include an historical timeline showing the progress made over the last 100 years.
Kevin Caulfield, the project’s coordinator, said there was a sense of excitement about the ground-breaking project, which will “raise in a real way the knowledge of disabled people’s experiences”.
The team has already made contact with a woman of 102, who attended a special school in the early years of the twentieth century, and is hoping she will agree to be interviewed.
Caulfield believes it is the first time a disabled people’s organisation has carried out such a piece of work.
He said: “The other thing that is probably unique is that all of the interviewers will be disabled people, a very diverse group of disabled people with very different impairments and backgrounds.
“Although we are looking at similar outcomes to any other oral history project, I think it will perhaps result in [interviewees] feeling freer to be themselves.”
ALLFIE believes the project will map progress from the “old-fashioned and paternalistic view of disabled children and young people as ‘ineducable’ to a more inclusive and empowering approach where disabled children and young people are valued and welcomed into their local school and communities”.
ALLFIE hopes the project will give disabled young people a “greater understanding of their history”, and provide proof of how inclusion improves the quality of all young people’s lives, as well as inspiring those involved in the struggle for inclusion.
Anyone interested in being interviewed should email Kevin Caulfield at firstname.lastname@example.org, write to him at: The Alliance for Inclusive Education, 336 Brixton Road, London SW9 7AA, or phone: 020 7737 6030.