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Enabled: how a new BFI collection reveals the complex history of disability on film

The Disabled Britain on Film collection undermines any simplistic notion of everything steadily improving. It complicates our understandings of how disabled people have been seen—and how they see themselves

Mat Fraser as Richard III. Photo: NOBBY CLARK/ ARENAPAL

My first experience of television was a momentary appearance on the documentary Born to be Small (1973). My father, William Shakespeare, was one of the stars, who all had restricted growth, and the film was made by Lord Snowden—himself a survivor of polio. The aim was to show that people with restricted growth could lead normal lives, and the subjects came out with their dignity intact. Snowden’s Committee on Integration—of which my dad was a member—had been working through the…

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