A History of Disability: from 1050 to the Present Day

The headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects was designed by George Grey Wornum, who was disabled during the First World War.

Disability in Time and Place reveals how disabled peoples' lives are integral to the heritage all around us.  From leper chapels built in the 1100s to protests about accessibility in the 1980s, the built environment is inextricably linked to the stories of disabled people, hidden and well-known.  This section serves as an invitation to those interested in disability or social history to explore what the historic environment has to offer. All the content has been translated into British Sign Language. You can also find out more information about buildings highlighted in these pages, some of which are open to the public.

Medieval Period 

Find out what life was like for disabled people in medieval England.

Disability in medieval England

Tudor England 

Life for disabled people changed dramatically in 16th century England.

Disability in Tudor England

Long 18th Century

There were important shifts in the way disabled people were perceived during the 18th century.

Disability in the long 18th century

19th Century 

The 19th century saw the rise of the county asylum and the growth in the number of workhouses across the country.

Disability in the 19th century

Early 20th Century

The First World War challenged the prevailing idea that disabled people were a burden.

Early 20th century

Late 20th Century

Life changed dramatically post-war as disabled people fought for rights to housing, education and employment.

Late 20th century