Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Challenges of Genealogy for the Disabled

A short time ago, we had a patron at the Mesa Regional Family History Center who was deaf. I had the opportunity to work with him in doing research for quite a while. We communicated by writing our questions and answers on slips of paper. I am afraid I don't write very quickly, and tried to convince him to use the computer, so I could write more quickly, but I did not seem to get that concept across to him very well. Then in response to my last post about attending genealogical conferences, I got a very interesting comment from another member of the deaf community.

That got me thinking about resources for doing genealogical research available to those who are deaf or otherwise disabled. I did find several genealogical organizations for the deaf:

Utah Deaf Genealogical Association, This appears to be a blog by W. David Samuelsen.

Alldeaf, deaf genealogy group. It doesn't look like they have too many members but this is a rather large forum. This is a website devoted to biographical information about Deaf Americans through the early 20th century. This site contains a database of information which researchers -- genealogists and historians -- can use to find a more complete picture of this oft-overlooked population.

There was apparently a Family History Workshop and Conference for the Deaf back in June of 2006.

Actually, looks like pretty slim pickings. I would be interested to hear from any readers who are disabled either deaf or otherwise. If I do get some feedback, I will pass it on. Some of the topics that would be helpful:

How does your disability affect your ability to find your ancestors?
How are you treated by the members of the genealogical community?
What do you see as your greatest challenges?
What changes in the way genealogists do their work would help you?

Thanks in advance for any comments.


  1. I have a walking disability and I find it hard to get to some archives, for example NEHGS in Boston. There I must park very far away, or take the subway, which then makes it impossible for me to carry anything to the library. Other libraries and archives are OK for access. I love cemeteries, but that is hard for me, too. The computer and online databases have been wonderful for me in the last few years, but as you know, not everything is online.

  2. I suspect there are many websites that are great resources, but aren't accessible to those who are sight impaired and use devices that read pages out loud.

  3. Hello, I just read your message and am glad to learn about you. I am Deaf, and (stupidly) I tend to think that we are the only people "excluded" from genealogy. I am wondering about ramped intrances to the archives you attend. One of my "pet peves" is that nasty "handicapped entrance in the rear". How can we all get these valuable assets made more available to ALL? Any ideas out there?? I am Suz. I am Deaf. My email is or just keep writing to James Tanner's Blog (?). Let's be active!