Today, this just happened. I have been nominated for the ITV National Diversity Awards as a positive role model for disability. I presume this is for being a disabled secondary school teacher with a physical disability, as well as a historian, highlighting disability history to the general public? I am hoping that when my book Disability and the Tudors: All the King’s Fools (which will be published by Pen and Sword Books is out in November 2021, it may change the way disabled people were perceived in the past, and viewed now, and in the future.
Congratulations to Phillipa Vincent-Connolly @PhillipaJC who has been nominated for the Positive Role Model (Disability) Award at The National Diversity Awards 2021. In association with @itvnews. To vote please visit https://t.co/1wImKJQbNZ #NDA21 #Nominate #VotingNowOpen pic.twitter.com/ux0DpOqZNI— National Diversity Awards #NDA20 (@ndawards) May 26, 2021
I have always been an activist, quietly trying to change attitudes towards disability whatever I’m doing in life, and my history research is a continuation of that.
It is said that history is written by the winners – it is forgotten that history is re
–written over time – transformed by books, reinvented by those who did not live through it. Being disabled myself, I have a lived experience of disability. I live with cerebral palsy every moment of the day, and there’s no getting away from it. I personally feel that as a disabled person, I have an obligation to educate the ignorant about disability, not to make myself feel superior, but to help change attitudes towards all disabilities, in order that disabled people don’t have to live with ableism and being stared at, or maybe have uncomfortable questions put to them in the street. (Yes, that happens).
25% of the UK population is disabled in some way, be it physically, or intellectually. There has got to come a point where society is more tolerant of its disabled citizens, but it seems in an age of perfection, and Instagram, disability still doesn’t sit well with many. Yet, the existence of disabled people has been woven through the tapestries and popular narratives throughout history. Disabled people were never seen as ‘winners’ or victors, so our history over time has been hidden in plain sight – ignored, untold, and viewed as insignificant. Disability history is an important topic to debate, research, and publish because such study directs its readers towards a general reclamation of our British history which rightfully includes its disabled participants.
Disability history is important to address specifically because the subject is often viewed as taboo, and as such, has, and still is often obscured from public view, understanding, and awareness. Disability studies is a field. It is not adjacent to English, Sociology or History; but should be considered as a subject in its own right. Disability studies deserve whole departments and dedicated faculty members, so the subject can be treated as an interdisciplinary field, rather than a cross-listed posting. Yet, academics and researchers continue to treat disability studies as a last-minute topic, something that they can ‘add-on’ to their research to be ‘on top of the trends’ in academia. Sadly, this ‘trend’ in studying minority histories does a disservice to those disabled people we study, research and write about, when disabled people are equally part of humanity, and give us a different perspective on what it means to be human.
Disabled people and their histories have been overlooked, and their stories so often whitewashed in the narrative of this country, yet understanding their existence is vital to our real understanding of the past.
I hope in some way, through this nomination, that the work, and the research I am attempting, will highlight change in some small way in society, in terms of how disabled people, and disability are perceived both in the past, and in the present.