Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region have played a crucial role in the history and lived experience of individuals with a disability. From the colonial era to the present, disability as an individual and social phenomenon has strongly influenced a sense of self-identity, as well as public policy, medical science, public health, and popular attitudes toward the proverbial “other.” Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary field of academic inquiry that is wide-ranging, complex, and often contested. The very word “disability” has sparked a fierce debate about language, culture, and vernacular usage, but it should not distract historians from the crucial importance of research in the rich resources and archival collections now found in repositories throughout the Commonwealth and neighboring states. The challenge invites a more inclusive and complete narrative of Pennsylvania’s contribution to United States and global history.

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