The Museum of disABILITY History

Timeline from The Museum of disABILITY History

400 B.C.

Hippocrates, the Greek physician, wrote the first work on epilepsy disputing that the disorder was a curse or caused by the gods. He believed that epilepsy was a brain disorder. "It is thus with regard to the disease called Sacred: it appears to me to be nowise more divine or more sacred than other diseases, but has a natural cause from the originates like other affections. Men regard its nature and cause as divine from ignorance and wonder, because it is not at all like to other diseases."

15th Century

The court fool was a part of the medieval and renaissance court society. Some jesters were disabled either physically or mentally.


Malleus Maleficarum, or translated "The Hammer of the Witches," is a witch hunting manual which discusses seizures as a characteristic of witches. The manual was written by two Dominican Friars with the authority of the pope.


Elizabethan Poor Laws were passed from 1583 to 1601 in order to aid the deserving poor, orphaned and crippled. The 1601 law was a consolidation of prior legislation and laid some of the burden on society by charging a "poor rate" on owners of property. Queen Elizabeth's government divided the poor into three groups. The disabled poor were placed in the group labeled "helpless poor."


The Salem Witch Trials resulted in the hanging of 19 witches, both male and female. It has been purported that some of the 19 were either feebleminded, of little or no education, or insane. Fear of what was different played into this community's persecution of so-called witches.


The Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, with the help of Benjamin Franklin, is the first hospital to create a special section for the treatment of mental illness and mental retardation. In 1756, these patients would be chained to the walls of the basement and put on display for a fee.


Virginia establishes the first hospital solely for the treatment of "idiots, lunatics and other people of unsound mind."

| 400BC-1773 | 1793-1841 | 1845-1869 | 1878-1916 | 1921-1943 | 1945-1958 | 1960-1965 | 1970-1974 | 1975-1977 | 1978-1984 | 1985-1999 | »

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How to do it in your state.

With the growing need for a Disability History Week across the country; we have compiled the tools to help you develop the legislation in your state. If you have any other questions please let us know.


National Disability History Week initiative 8-5-09

Disability advocates across the country are mobilizing to help create understanding and celebrate the history of individuals with disabilities! Since West Virginia passed the first Disability

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Riverside Elementary Class promoting NYS DHW 5-14-09

A third grade class at Riverside Elementary School has been collaborating with the Catskill Center for Independence in finding ways to promote disability awareness in their school. This year, the

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NYS Disability History Curriculum is now available! 11-19-08

The Museum of disABILITY History is pleased to announce that lesson plans as well as supplemental information are now available! These can be found through the Teacher Resources section of the

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Legislative Updates

New York State

Updated: 5-10-12


Updated: 9-2-11


Updated: 8-25-11

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