One-Of-A-Variety Museum Devoted To Individuals With Disabilities Is Closing

BUFFALO, NY – West New York and the rest of the country have lost a unique place to celebrate and educate others about the history of people with disabilities.

After 22 years, the Museum of Disabled History in Amherst has closed due to the financial burden caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, the director said.

The museum, whose job it was to improve the understanding, acceptance and independence of people with disabilities, was temporarily closed in mid-March shortly after the pandemic.

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This denied it a source of income from entrance fees, but the lack of adequate dedicated funding also contributed to the final closure, said museum director David Mack-Hardiman.

“I want people to understand that we are working to share our exhibits so that the history of disability reaches a wider audience,” said Mack-Hardiman, who is also vice president of People Inc., a nonprofit service provider for the disabled who ran the museum. “We want the museum’s mission to continue in different ways.”

Housed in a former volunteer fire department building, the museum was believed to be the only stationary museum on the national scale to display exhibits and artifacts shedding light on the history of people with disabilities, Mack-Hardiman said.

The museum, which attracted about 2,000 visitors annually, had one full-time employee and four part-time employees.

“The museum is a small room and we just couldn’t stay open because of the virus risk,” said Mack-Hardiman.

But he said he was determined to find a new home for the exhibits.

“I’m in discussions with the Pennhurst group in Pennsylvania who might one day open a national museum on disabilities,” said Mack-Hardison.

He also works with other groups including SANYS, the New York State Self-Advocacy Association in Albany, to showcase some of the museum’s exhibits.

“We have traveling exhibits that could potentially be used in other locations. In that sense, we could reach a larger audience, ”said Mack-Hardiman.

The museum’s exhibits include:

• “In celebration of Down syndrome” with photos and historical information “that convey very positive messages about people with Down syndrome,” said Mack-Hardiman.

• “Self Advocacy”, an account of the genesis of this movement and details of the people who contributed to it.

• Institutional Cemetery Restoration, a collage of photographs of efforts to improve forgotten cemeteries where people with disabilities were buried.

“A number of people with disabilities were buried with a marker that had a number and a symbol for their religion,” said Mack-Hardiman. “Many of the markers have no name at all.”

And even though the museum is closed, People Inc.’s Human Service Excellence training center continues to operate in the building. The museum’s online shop,, has books and other goods on sale until the end of the month.

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