How are we making archaeology accessible for all and are we doing it well enough?

Posted on September 11, 2017


Dealing with disabilities is something close to my heart. So it was a real pleasure to film this session at CIfA and to share it with you now:

Session Details

Organisers: Theresa O’Mahony, Enabled Archaeology; Victoria Reid, Access to Archaeology. Supported by the CIfA Equality and Diversity Group

We need to be a more dynamic profession and that starts with increasing equality and diversity of the workforce. In order to do this, we need to know how we can help without being detrimental to people who need this help. We can learn from each other to increase our precision, accuracy or pace. We need to listen more and collaborate with the wider archaeological community across the world.
At our session we will be openly discussing all accessibility issues concerning dis/Abilities within archaeology, whether this be within the physical environment or concerning the cultural attitudes surrounding (dis/Abled) enabled archaeology. Many different areas of archaeology will be involved in the session, from commercial, international and surveys to discussions about enabled archaeologists, volunteers and students. Within enabled archaeology there are many positive examples of equality and inclusion for disabilities, but still there are negative barriers that need to be addressed. There will be many examples of the positive and negative effects of accessibility within our archaeological practice.
Breaking down barriers to inclusion Theresa O’Mahony, Enabled Archaeology

How can the positives of enabled archaeological inclusion be transferred to break down negative attitudinal barriers encountered by prospective dis/Abled enabled volunteers, students and future archaeologists within our discipline and profession? Arguments will be put forward that this can be done using a range of strategies and techniques, which could potentially change the actual living culture of contemporary archaeology – with enabled archaeologists, accreditation lists, fieldwork dis/Ability training, media communication and one-to one-personal debate strategies. In addition, liaising, partnering and working with national archaeological bodies and institutions could well bring attitudinal awareness and a change to negative attitudinal barriers. These methods will be argued to break down the negative and even prejudicial attitudinal barriers that a minority of archaeologists still actively hold towards dis/Abled enabled inclusion in any area of archaeology today.

Theresa O’Mahony BA (Hons) MA Public Archaeology UCL Alumnus is a dis/Ability consultant specialising in contemporary dis/Ability in archaeology. The Enabled Archaeology Foundation will be a non-profit organisation inclusive of all people with or without dis/Abilities in archaeology. Her research has reached over 3.3 million people in the UK and abroad.
A global vision on diversity and involvement in archaeology: cultural phenomenon, fad, revenue model or urgent necessity? Dr M P H van der Sommen, archaeologist and heritage specialist, The Netherlands

‘Some’ would state that there is no necessity within Europe to encourage archaeologists to get everyone involved in archaeology, since there already is enough diversity. Is there a necessity for an ‘Equality & Diversity Group’ within British archaeology because there are more problems with equality in archaeology? Or might there be a group like this because Britain has raised more awareness around diversity issues? What are archaeologists doing abroad to make archaeology accessible for everyone, if anything? It could be debated that this awareness is a cultural phenomenon, or yes, even a revenue model.
This presentation will discuss the current global take on, and awareness of, accessibility, equality and diversity in archaeology and will attempt to interpret why some cultures are more open to these issues and come up with innovative solutions, while other cultures might even be apprehensive in adopting equality and diversity as an urgent necessity.
Marloes van der Sommen studied at the faculty of Archaeology at Universiteit Leiden, The Netherlands. She worked in all branches of Dutch archaeology, from government (RCE) to commercial business (RAAP archeologisch adviesbureau B.V.). She has been involved in the implementation of various new processes within Dutch archaeology and three years ago she was able, as project coordinator, to set up the first national community archaeology project in the Netherlands: ArcheoHotspots. The project brings archaeology, in an approachable and ‘touchable’ manner, back to the public. She now combines her interest in acculturational processes and the need to give back to society by giving Dutch community archaeology firmer support. Marloes is also involved in the movement ‘archeologie 3.0’, which denounces abuse within the Dutch archaeology, and tries to connect and exchange knowledge and best practices with allies, such as CIfA.
From equality and diversity to fairness, inclusion and respect Angela Batt and Alexandra Grassam, Wessex Archaeology

As a company, Wessex Archaeology recognises the importance and benefit of promoting equality and diversity within the organisation. We have therefore embarked upon a journey to examine the nature of its workforce to obtain raw diversity data. The results of this will shape the direction of change we need to take and help find ways of opening doors and becoming more inclusive. This paper will outline the approach we have taken to the survey and will examine its results, the actions we have initiated, and advice we have taken to date. The survey aims to collect data about our 250+ strong workforce, and includes questions about nationality, sexuality and religion, with the aim of ensuring we provide equal employment opportunities for all. The paper will conclude with a discussion on how we intend to make the transition from the concept of ‘Equality and Diversity’, towards ‘Fairness, Inclusion and Respect’.

Angela Batt BA (Hons) has worked in commercial archaeology for over 22 years. In 2013 Angela was appointed HR Manager at Wessex and has been modernising the HR process, updating policies and procedures, re-writing job descriptions and streamlining the HR skills and training capture. Angela’s interest in the HR function ranges from employment law and best practice, communication and improving company culture and behaviours, learning and development and ensuring Wessex as a company embraces fairness, inclusion and respect in everything. This has culminated in her being appointed Human Resources Director in October 2016.

Alexandra Grassam BA (Hons) MSc has worked in commercial archaeology for 13 years. She took up the post of Senior Heritage Consultant at Wessex Archaeology in 2014 and believes in promoting inclusivity and diversity within the profession and ensuring there is an opportunity for all to bring their talents to the table. She also believes archaeology has an important part to play in advocating fairness, inclusivity and respect in a wider context, including in the construction industry.

Archaeology and vision impairment Victoria Reid, Access to Archaeology; James Goldsworthy, specialist in visual impairment

This paper will look at the ways in which archaeology can be made accessible for those with a vision impairment. It will debunk some of the misconceptions around sight loss and encourage you to think more critically about how you communicate and work with those with disabilities, specifically sight loss. Using a case study from an excavation we ran in July we will show you examples of how you can make small changes to your working practices to improve access and the working environment for everyone. We will highlight the experiences of both the disabled participant and the site supervisor to give a unique insight into how positive an archaeological experience can be, regardless of the level of archaeology, be it community, public or commercial archaeology.

Victoria Reid graduated with a degree in archaeology from the University of Aberdeen in 2014 and has been working with people with disabilities since. In 2015 Access to Archaeology was born. Victoria started with workshops with the visually impaired and then extended out to Cubs groups. Through her research for the workshop Victoria was horrified to see that it was hard to find inclusive workshops and excavations. She formalised Access to Archaeology as a business in April 2016 more as a way of supporting their activities than to make money. Since then they have worked with Lindengate, a mental health charity, providing a six-week excavation session. They have contributed to an outdoor learning resource for the Scottish Forestry Commission and run workshops for the PACE
James Goldsworthy is an exceptional coach with courage, impact, leadership experience and highly tuned listening skills. He lost his sight in 2005 and has subsequently qualified as an executive coach, become a certified trainer on no fewer than four assistive technology platforms for the visually impaired, started his own successful business and become a specialist in the field of visual impairment. James has worked with the visually impaired since 2006, serving as a director of a county-wide charity for the visually impaired where he worked closely with the visually impaired as well as their families. He has extensive experience in the creation and implementation of training and development programmes for the confidence building, up-skilling and personal growth of visually impaired individuals wishing to gain meaningful employment, return to work after losing their sight or make a transition from one career to another.

Making commercial archaeology more inclusive Erik DeScathebury, commercial archaeologist, member of Breaking Ground Heritage

The discussion about allowing employees with disabilities in the workplace can sometimes be daunting, making many involved unnecessarily uncomfortable or even non-committal for fear of saying the wrong thing in our politically correct society. Within commercial archaeology, disabilities are frequently kept from employers out of concerns relating to getting or keeping employment. This has led to a perception of commercial archaeology as a relatively dis/ability-free zone when discussing the fitness of enabled archaeologists to work alongside their peers in their chosen profession.
This article will explore the realities of working in a commercial context through the aperture of my own personal experience as an enabled archaeologist in three distinct environments. By comparing urban, foreshore, and rural commercial sites, and the respective impacts these sites can have on enabled archaeologists, it is my intention to illustrate a reasoned approach to ensuring the inclusion of this diverse workforce within the discipline.

Erik deScathebury is a registered disabled commercial archaeologist who studied at the University of York 2009–2012, but ill health meant he was unable to complete his degree. Attempting to start again, he attended the University College London in 2014/15, but funding became an issue, and he had to suspend the course. He is currently completing a BSc from the Open University with a view to return to the University College London to study for an MSc. From May 2015, he entered the profession of commercial archaeology, working in London. He now works largely in rural-based commercial sites in the south-east of England. In October 2016, he was granted Practitioner level within the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists (CIfA). He is closely associated with the Enabled Archaeology Foundation, and provides assistance to its director and members. Since July 2016, he has also become a member of Breaking Ground Heritage, supporting veterans through Operation Nightingale to learn archaeology as a new career discipline as well as therapy for coping with disability and conditions such as PTSD.

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