I’m a disability activist and it’s part of my day job, too so I actually have a fair bit, I think.
For some pretty interesting but mostly text-based scholarship on disabled people in history, Disability Studies Quarterly offers full text online (EE!), and I *think* they have PDFs that include images and/or artworks.
This issue in particular has some great articles on Disabled Shakespearean characters and themes.
Here is a post about a deaf man who greatly confused some Americans in the late 1800s. Here is a painting of the Virgin and Child appearing to a “lame” noblewoman from the 1750s. I have some paintings of Billy Waters and some disabled Black sailors in the British Navy from the 1800s here:
Here is a PDF excerpt from Stumbling Blocks Before the Blind: Medieval Constructions of Disability that includes at least one image from an illuminated manuscript.
Greg Carrier, a graduate student in Medieval Studies at the intersection of disability wrote a series of guest posts for the Medieval Middle, has a blog here that you can look through to find images and writing about the depiction of disabled people in Medieval Art as well as evidence from writing and I *think* surviving objects as well. For example:
Here’s a pretty cool resource on a disability/representation exhibit that has a lot of images, including The Beggars by Pieter Brueghel:
There’s a LOT out there, and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it.
Just in case it’s interesting you can find sources for people with disabilities in Norse society too.
Norse mythology: The most well known is probably the mythical god Hod, who was blind. He was tricked by Loki into killing his brother Baldur with a mistletoe arrow.
Odin himself had one eye, since he traded the other one away.
There’s also the warrior god, Tyr, whose hand was bit off when he leashed Fenris. Having one hand did not stop him from commanding the armies of Asgard.
Sagas: Most people probably know about Ragnar Lodbrok from History Channel’s Vikings. According to several different sources he and Aslaug had a son, Ivar the Boneless, who was disabled. He had “soft legs” (most likely osteoporosis) and had to be carried into battle on a shield. The sagas describe him as beautiful, wise and strong with sword and bow. He ended up as king of York. (His brother Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye was born with an eye with a distorted pupil).
In Hávamál there’s this quote:
The lame may ride a horse,
The handless may drive a herd,
The deaf may fight and do well;
A blind man is better
Than a burnt one;
The dead are of no use.
Archeological finds: Two of the most famous Norse graves found in Norway, Oseberg and Gokstad, has people that archeologists believe had disabilities. The oldest woman from Oseberg had been bedridden when she was younger due to osteoporosis and walked with a limp. The man from Gokstad, a warrior killed in battle, had acromegaly and in addition a permanent knee injury.
(Interestingly, one DNA study of the younger woman from the Oseberg grave showed that she was most likely of Eastern descent. They have unfortunately not been able to replicate this study and confirm the findings.)
Laws: There was a practice of leaving unwanted children to die in the wild. With the introduction of Christianity there came laws forbidding this unless the infants had obvious physical disabilites.
A free public library is a revolutionary notion, and when people don’t have free access to books, then communities are like radios without batteries. You cut people off from essential sources of information — mythical, practical, linguistic, political — and you break them. You render them helpless in the face of political oppression.
Even in access to cellphones and the Internet, the United States ranks a disappointing 23rd, partly because one American in five lacks Internet access.
‘It’s astonishing that for a country that has Silicon Valley, lack of access to information is a red flag.’