Hello! I’m Samuel Brady, a PhD research student at the University of Glasgow.

Head and shoulders image of Sam Brady

In collaboration with the National Paralympic Heritage Trust, my thesis investigates the social, political and technical history of the sports wheelchair. Excitingly, we have decided to start a new series of blog posts about my project, covering anything from reflections on my research, funny stories from archive materials, or interesting facts about the history of sports wheelchairs. I hope to make this an engaging, multimedia project, so please keep checking in!

For this first post, I thought I would introduce myself, my research background and how I became involved in this project.

I began my undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds in 2015, studying History and Philosophy. At the time, I had no idea what area of academic research excited me most, until I undertook a Sociology module entitled: ‘Introduction to Disability Studies’ in my second year. As someone with dyslexia and family members with both physical and psychological disabilities, I was somewhat more aware of the challenges that faced disabled people than the average person. However, this module opened my eyes to world of disability, and I was keen to do more in this field. I noticed that, in my mandatory modules, there was limited focus on disabled people, both in the taught content and wider reading lists. To a large extent this may have been due to my existing interests; I chose to do modules about race and gender, and in particular African American history, and engaged little with the History of Medicine (although from what I recall these modules did not focus that much on disabled people either). So, I decided to pull my main interests together, writing on the relationship between race and disability in African American literature in the Harlem Renaissance period for my undergraduate thesis. This project was thankfully well-received, leading me to consider further research. This experience also underlined to me how much more there was to be done in the field of disability history. After all, there is substantial academic work exploring gender, sex, race and class historically, so why not disability too?

For my Masters, I stayed at Leeds and chose to focus on race history, as this course and its tutors gave me the opportunities to continue both of my main research interests – race and disability. For my MA dissertation, I wanted to do a similar study, but I thought it would be more appropriate to draw on my own community. As such, this study explored disability in early 20th Century Anglo-Jewish community, focusing primarily on Leeds. This was a really exciting project, giving me space to work with important welfare institutions, as well as various archives and oral history collections. Further, this led me to reflect more on inclusion and accessibility in my own community. I have since given a few talks on this research – one of which was recorded – and I wrote a separate blogpost about the Anglo-Jewish community of 1981 during the International Year of Disabled People (both of which are linked at the bottom if you fancy reading).

Which then leads us to this PhD project. This project was offered as a studentship, as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Central Doctoral Partnership program which links universities and archives together in collaborative projects. I have now been researching since October 2019. So far, most of my research has focused on academic theories about technology, as well as reading up about Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the history of the Paralympics and modern disability sport more generally. Despite the impact of Covid-19, the research is continuing well, and I am hoping to start interviewing users and manufactures of sports wheelchairs in the near future. I have been really lucky to be able to speak to many wonderful people so far, and this is before I begin conducting research interviews! I think this is a really exciting and unique piece of research, and I hope I’ll be able to do this subject justice. 

So that’s me! The next post will be more on topic (I promise) and I hope you’ll check it out. If you have any questions or thoughts, or even suggestions for a future blog post topic, please let me know!

Links:

  • British Jews and the United Nations International Year of Disabled People in 1981 http://rethinkingdisability.net/british-jews-and-the-united-nations-international-year-of-disabled-people-in-1981/
  • LJHS Leeds Jewish Disabled History of Board of Guardians
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMwk0N6qBdk&list=PL5gkiUjAst8JVQ65BV56r8nXr_OECQ6eV&index=2&t=132s