Institute For Archaeologists: ‘Employing People With Disabilities’ Report. 13/01/11.

5 Mar

Here is the link describing a newly published IFA report on best practise guidelines for employing people with disabilities

IFA – ‘Employing People With Disabilities: Good Practise Guidance For Archaeologists’ by Tim Phillips & John Creighton.

On My First Archaeological Dig (Romano-British Site)

I have read most of this report, and it gives me great joy.  The comments on disability in the workplace were mostly positive, and highlighted that if people talked a bit more openly about various disabilities then compromises can be reached.  The report covers areas such as the guidelines for good practise, disability and professional archaeology, alongside personal stories at the end.  One of the summary comments is that a ‘lack of awareness and understanding was…a major problem, especially with hidden disabilities’.  An environment in which it is ‘okay to explain your disability’, ‘discuss the options open’ and for ‘compromises to be made’ where cited as critically important steps in the archaeological world to include those with disabilities enter the working world.

This report makes clear the different models that disability can take.  Firstly there is the slightly dated view that disability is an illness; a person with a disability is a subject purely for treatment and cure.  This is the Medical Model.  Next is the Charitable Model.  This view sees the individual as a tragic individual, an object of pity who needs care and to be protected from the everyday rigours of life.  So far, these models hardly seem charitable to the disabled person themselves!

The final model, and the one which sets the tone for the IFA report, is the Social Model.  This model shifts the emphasis away from the view that there is something wrong with the person; that they are excluded from social, economic, physical and attitudinal behaviours of society because of their disability.  This focuses instead on the need for society to change its attitude.  That reasonable adjustments can be made.

The report has provided a safeguard in the fact that although I’m trying hard to break into archaeology, I know that at least a good portion of interested disabled people already have succeeded.

I also came across this blog, a small online community dealing with various issues of being disabled and available disability aids.  This post in particular caught my eye, as it details finding work, and disclosing a disability on your CV.  The fact that the writer mentions archaeology and heritage only helped to intensify my interest.

I’ve also been turned down from many jobs – from the archaeologists who never called me back to the museum curator who was happy for me to volunteer at his living history museum but wouldn’t hire me because he was afraid I would “fall in the well”. This was the large, obvious well I walked past every day, the well that was covered over with a steel grating.

But I’m not bitter, not at all. I’ve always taken the attitude that if an employer is that close-minded when it comes to hiring a person with a disability, then I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway“.

As a disabled person currently trying to find work, it is a staggering number to read that the author notes up to 70% adults who identify themselves as disabled are not currently employed.  I’m not sure how verifiable that number is, but it makes me think for a moment.  The decision to make public the acknowledgement of having a disability can be a very personal one, and no doubt turns many employees off.  As unfair as this, it certainly isn’t helped by the media at large, who often portray Equality laws as divisive barriers to ‘ordinary people’, whoever ordinary people are.  It is my hope that reports such as the IFA one can help to increase knowledge about disability, the many guises it can take, and the determination disabled people often have.

This brings me to my main point.

Disability acceptance into the workforce, and into society at large, is not a one way process.  We can be a part of that change as much as anyone else.  We should not leave it up to others when we can have a positive say, and help change society for the better.  Equally it is also up to other sectors of society to embrace the disabled community.



Access For All


7 Responses to “Institute For Archaeologists: ‘Employing People With Disabilities’ Report. 13/01/11.”

  1. Steff March 8, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Hi – thanks for the link to the IFA report. That was a really interesting read – I wish I could show that to a few local archaeologists.

    I’m the author of the blog you quote. I am legally blind. I can still see but I am severely short-sighted, and completely colour blind (my condition is called achromotopsia). I spent as much time as I could while at uni volunteering on digs, making contacts with archaeologists both here and abroad, doing museum internships. I won a couple of prestigious scholarships and even got to work in a conservation laboratory for eight weeks.

    But it was when I started to look for paying work I ran into difficulty. People were happy enough to take my time for free, but as soon as I started looking for paid work I saw lots of raised eyebrows and concerned glances and got really used to this “talk” about how I was a good worker and all but they were worried about the safety of the artifacts. And that museum curator was the last straw for me. I sat down and told myself that I didn’t actually WANT to re-prove myself time and time again for the rest of my life. That I have actually, in fact, been an archaeologist. Dream come true. Now, maybe it was time to see if I liked something different.

    I now run my own freelance writing business, and work as an accessible formats producer – creating braille and large print books. I adore it, but in a few years time I’ll probably go back to uni and do my phd in archaeology, and see where that takes me. Sometimes you don’t always end up where you think you will, but you’re always learning something, and I think that’s the important thing.

    Best of luck with your own job search!

  2. These Bones Of Mine March 8, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Dear Steff,
    Thank you for taking the time to reply! Once again, it is encouraging to hear you speak about your own experiances and work placements.

    I’m glad someone read the link to the IFA report, I think I should try and forward it to the units I’ve volunteered for.

    Personally speaking, I am quite worried about looking for paid work. Like yourself I have tried to volunteer as often as I can. I’ve volunteered for Humber Field Archaeology, Tees Archaeology and now York Archaeological Trust. But there has never been mention of paid work, which is dispiriting. I’m keeping in contact with various people, and I hope with a Masters it might be easier to get some work and experiance in what I want. Out of curiosity, have you ever had to resort to mentioning the Disability Discrimination Act at all or possibly pursued reasons why you haven’t been employed?

    I am physically disabled. I use a wheelchair for mobility, and cruches for office based environments (I have managed to dig in the past, and hopefully in the future!). I’ve seen how the access can be pretty bad at certain places, and I’m sure it will hold me back in certain situations. But as you say, new paths can lead to great things!

    Its great to hear you have your own freelance writing business- do you get much work via universities asking for accessable formats? I wish you all the best for the future, and the PhD.

    Please let me know if I can make the blog any more reader friendly.

    Thank you once again 🙂


    • Steff March 15, 2011 at 5:58 am #

      Thanks David!

      I think the problem finding paid archaeological work isn’t just limited to us archaeologists with disabilities. I know in NZ there are a LOT more graduates than there are jobs, and what jobs there are tend to be short term. I think when you have so many people willing and able to work for free to get the experience, and so many experienced people clamoring for jobs, you just feel like you don’t HAVE to employ a disabled person, because there’s always 50 other people you could employ.

      I’ve never thought much about doing anything about the discrimination. I figure, it’s better to just move on, there are always people just as willing to let me have a go, so I try to focus on finding them, rather than worrying about the silly ones. In saying that, if I encountered SERIOUS discrimination, I would definitely be taking action. I think most of the time it’s more genuine concern over my ability to be able to see artifacts, which, I admit, might be somewhat justified 🙂 It’s their job as archaeologists / curators to look after the artifacts, after all.

      Arch, like any business, is all about who you know, and you have contacts, so if you keep at it, you’ll get something.

      All the professional archaeologists I know have six weeks of work, then eight months of waiting for people to call them back, then another two weeks of work, then five months of waiting … MOST of the archaeologists I went to school with now work in other fields that interest them … from film to photography to contaminated land testing.

      I did the waiting to call thing for six-eight months, then decided I just didn’t want my life to be like that.

      I think your site looks great the way it is! I’m enjoying reading it!

      • These Bones Of Mine March 15, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

        Cheers Steff!
        Oh I would definitely agree with that as well. There are a lot of graduates in a variety of industries that can’t get a foothold because there isn’t enough jobs! I know the place I’m volunteering at now, has a lot of volunteers- both students, unemployed members of the public and OAPs as well, and I think for any large arch organisation in the UK, its similiar. Jobs are pretty hard to get hold off at the moment in general, and the situation will only get worse for the forseeable future in the UK I thing. (I hope I’m wrong though!).

        I just had a quick look at your blog- its pretty good! Are you okay with me linking it into my blog roll?

        Again, I have to agree with the discrimination. I would only considering using it if I really had too. As the IFA report says communication about each others needs is really key, alongside amking reasonable adjustment.

        Is that mostly Field Archaeologists? I’m really interested in pursuing a dedicated role, possibly to do with archaeology and university, but that would be in the future. Have to see how it goes in the next few years first!

        Thank you! I changed the background a bit, but I’m pretty happy with it now I think. Only so much you can do on a free wordpress blog…

  3. Debbra August 27, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

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  1. ‘The Bioarchaeology of Care’: A Case Study From Neolithic Vietnam (Tilley & Oxenham 2011) « These Bones Of Mine - January 29, 2012

    […] My only reservation regarding the methodology and approach of the researchers & archaeologists are the dangers inherent in applying a care scheme (or ‘retrospective attribution of motive’) onto a culture from which we are substantially removed from, both in space and time.  Regarding what is, and what can be classed as a disability, together with differing cultural and world views, means that disability can never be classed easily (Roberts & Manchester 2010).  The ever resourceful IFA have produced a recent paper on employing disabled people, and it helps to  highlight how Britain’s own views on disabilities have, and continue, to change (see this post for the social, medical and charitable models of disability). […]

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