Archiving the Disabled People's Movement: Knowledge Production and Emancipatory Struggle

  • Beesley, L. (Presenter)
  • Ella Clarke (Presenter)
  • Steve Graby (Presenter)

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


The Disabled People’s Archive (DPA) is a joint venture between the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) and Archives+, formerly the Greater Manchester County Records Office, based at Manchester Central Library. It is, to the best of its staff teams’ knowledge, the largest collection of material produced by disabled activists anywhere in Europe.

The underlying principle of the DPA’s work is that the archive of a social movement is not a dead resource for research; but the living record of knowledge production. It records competing analyses, formed through struggle, of the social world which disabled activists sought to change – complete with the strategic and tactical innovations such analyses entail. The archive, then, is a resource to be learned from, rather than about, and its success depends on its availability to all disabled people engaged in emancipatory struggle.

Our presentation will be split into three parts: The first introduces the collection; drawing attention to the scale of our holdings, the struggles and movement organisations which the collection records, and the broader diversity of the Disabled People’s Movement as a political and epistemological actor; The second puts forward our model of democratic control – the divisions of labour and decision making processes used to ensure that disabled activists have full control over the DPA’s strategic development, conditions of access, and overall policy orientation within the partnership between a Disabled People’s Organisation and a public sector archive; The third outlines our interventions into ongoing debates about accessibility in the heritage sector; explaining our approach to universal design, and the challenges of operationalising it what is still an exclusionary area of British society.
Period21 Oct 2023
Event titlePostgraduate Research Conference: Centre for Disability Studies
Event typeConference
LocationLeeds, United KingdomShow on map


  • archival practice
  • Disability Studies
  • Disabled People's Movement
  • Social Movement History