Dedicated to the collection, preservation and display of artifacts that help to shine a light on the history of people with disabilities, the Museum of disABILITY History remains committed to advancing the understanding, acceptance and independence of the disabled.
Established in 1998 by Dr. James M. Boles, president and chief executive officer of People Inc., the Museum of disABILITY History has steadily expanded over the past 17 years. The museum grew so much that in 2010 it relocated to its current location at 3826 Main St. in Amherst, receiving its permanent charter from the New York State Board of Regents in 2011.
Believed to be the only “brick-and-mortar” museum in the entire country dedicated exclusively to preserving the history of people with disabilities, all of the artifacts and educational materials ranging from medieval times to the present era are used to promote a higher level of societal awareness and understanding.
“We can help everyone to grow and obtain a better knowledge of people with disabilities and with that help to evoke a change in attitudes and perceptions,” said Doug Farley, who serves as museum director. “Our exhibits, displays, collections, archived research materials and educational programs create awareness and present opportunity for detailed discussion and discovery.”
As a project of People Inc., the Museum of disABILITY History allows individuals with disabling conditions and other special needs to be offered support needed to participate and succeed in what museum staff believes is an evolving and more accepting society. Photographs, historic artifacts and archived record information that have been used to help shape the lives of individuals with disabilities can all be seen by any interested individuals or groups looking to take a tour of the museum or using their research library.
“The museum offers a chance to see historic images of disabled individuals and gain a better understanding of the challenges these people faced and how they were able to succeed,” said Doug Platt, the museum’s curator. “We aim to educate and help change perceptions and actions so that now and in the future people with disabilities will be able to have opportunities and equal access that will allow for public participation in whatever it is they want to do.”
Farley, Platt and other museum staff members have worked hard over the past year or so to increase the number of tours and special events that are offered, add to the museum’s membership and create new interactive opportunities for the volunteers who help keep the facility operational.
“Our tours are fabulous because they are given from a perspective from a disabled person’s point of view,” said Farley. “Our four docents, all of whom are individuals with disabilities, do a tremendous job guiding those who take a museum tour and seeing things from their perspective.”
“Our galleries are loaded with images but the museum is also packed with information that really tells the stories of some incredibly thought-provoking topics,” said Platt. “We have permanent and changing exhibits that cover a wide range of things all related to disability history that really have to be seen to truly understand and comprehend.”
The Museum of disABILITY History is funded in large part through the generous support of People Inc. as well as donations made by various entities, including the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation and corporate grants received by companies that recognize the important work done at the museum.
“We are thankful for our relationship with People Inc.,” said Farley. “They realize the importance of the programs that we offer and our ability to establish a platform for awareness, understanding, appreciation and acceptance.”
Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission costs are free to museum members and People Inc. employees; $6 for adults; $3.50 for students, senior citizens and employees in the human services industry; $3 for children ages 6 to 17; and free for children age 5 and under. Group rates for over 10 people are $4 per person.
For more information about the Museum of disABILITY History, including how to schedule a tour, make an appointment to use the research library, become a volunteer or be added to their mailing list, either call 629-3626, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit museumofdisability.org.