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VIRTUAL - Disability accommodations in ancient Greece

October 8, 2021 @ 2:00 pm CDT Central Time

This is an online event.

Lecturer: Debby Sneed

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 legally mandated accommodations for people with disabilities in public and some private spaces. Though there is still much to be done, the ADA was a significant milestone in the modern disability rights movement. The rhetoric around this legislation encourages us to think that life must have been unbearably difficult for disabled people in the past, especially in the ancient period. After all, how could an ancient society have had the time, resources, creative ability, or even inclination to accommodate people whose bodies did not adhere to the norm? In this talk, I confront assumption of the universal plight of disabled people in the past by looking at how ancient Greek cities and societies made practical decisions to accommodate their disabled members. I argue that the ancient Greeks did not employ an ableist “norm” that dictated whom they thought worthy of inclusion; rather, they provided accommodations when and where they thought it was appropriate or necessary for their successful functioning. And yes, there was also a pension system for some people with disabilities in the ancient world! With this talk, we can begin to understand disability accommodations outside of a modern model of charity or as a legal requirement and, with it, recognize that not all societies or cultures situate disability in the same way.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Disability in Ancient Greece with Dr. Debby Sneed,” Peopling the Past (16 September 2020)

Debby Sneed, “The architecture of access: ramps at ancient Greek healing sanctuaries,” Antiquity 94 (2020).

Martha L. Rose, The Staff of Oedipus: Transforming Disability in Ancient Greece (University of Michigan Press, 2003).

Young Lecture

Please contact Jane Goldberg at for information on joining this online lecture.

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October 8, 2021
2:00 pm CDT
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Jane A. Goldberg


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