How can we include more enabled participants in contemporary archaeology?

There are so many approaches and ideas that can aid inclusion. Within this short blog post I will put down the ones I feel are the most major for our vast archaeological community.

Enabled Archaeology Foundation

Within the Enabled Archaeology Foundation (E.A.F) which will be established by the end of May 2017 we will be introducing specific archaeological awareness training which will consist of both invisible and visible dis/Abilities. Categories will detail the largest mental health and physical issues so that people with no experience of disabilities/Abilities will have guidelines to take away with them to their unit, training dig, community dig, museum, or office. We will be also issuing awareness cards which will aid the inclusion of enabled participants. For instance how to enable a blind participant to draw record and monitor contexts.

General Approaches

Practically, by meeting and getting to know any one of us with a dis/Ability it has been proven by many studies that people’s worry, suspicions, and concerns can be negated which then leads to a favourable opinion/perspective of all dis/Abilities. Within this training most if not all the deliverers will be enabled.

In training excavations, the use of a ‘buddy’ whereby the (dis/Abled) enabled student or participant can specially ask for help (Phillips and Gilchrist, 2007) if needed is a great boon. Although it is highly recommended when doing this that unless the enabled participant asks some-one else to aid them, that no one else on the dig tries to help or intervene in any way. Although other participants may find it difficult not to intervene it aids the enabled participants self-worth, esteem, and confidence when they are able to do the job for themselves however arduous. An example of this is when I was on a training dig someone saw me struggling as I was learning self-coping strategies to place earth in a wheelbarrow. They just picked up my bucket and chucked the earth into the wheelbarrow. The person concerned thought they were being kind, but in truth it then took me just that little longer to find the self-coping strategy which meant I could then easily do it myself, which then built hope my self-esteem.


Giving enabled archaeologist a week’s free try out on a job, will mean that you can judge the competency of a person’s Ability to do the job rather than any perceived disability. If you as an employer have no experience of dis/Abilities, by working with an enabled person it has been proven in many quarters that any worries, concerns, or suspicions can be negated, which in turn brings favourable perspectives towards all dis/Abilities.

The image shows a man and a child writing on a wall. The man is using his toes to enable himself. The slogan reads 'Its not being normal that's important - but learning to accept our being different: to live (and let live) and love as fully as we can'.

A Different Perspective

Inclusion can look difficult to employers when it comes to Health and Safety and Insurance for enabled archaeologists. Both of these perceived issues have already been addressed by freelance enabled archaeologists, as they hold their own insurance and liability from Towergate Insurance which costs employers nothing but can also aid peace of mind to an employer.

By listening to wheelchair and cane users, who view their equipment as transport and life liberating, allowing them to get from A to B independently, the idea that enabled participants with equipment are to be pitied for having to use their equipment can be turned on its head.

Finally, just as each of us need to break through our comfort zone to really grow and develop as archaeologists. I ask each and every-one of you, will you break out and aid enabled archaeological inclusion?


Theresa O’Mahony

E.A.F, Enabled Facebook Group

If you would like to find out more:

Watch Theresa’s session at CIfA 2017 (Breaking down Barriers to inclusion) by clicking this link: Please click to go to video. 

You can find the Enabled Facebook Group by clicking this link: Please click here. 

You can follow Theresa on Facebook or Twitter (and we strongly recommend you do as she is ace!)


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