Leonard Cheshire was a RAF pilot during World War II and a disability philanthropist. His charity work led to the creation of Leonard Cheshire Disability, a charity supporting more than 30,000 people across the UK.
“She was given an electric wheelchair and she could take herself around, where she wanted to go. That gave her that level of independence that she had never experienced in her life”
The Leonard Cheshire Sound Archive consists of 256 sound tapes collected by Leonard Cheshire from the 1950s onwards. They contain the memories of people who lived, worked and volunteered at the charity. Between them they showcase how attitudes to disability have changed over time in the UK.
In a 2017 tape recording, employee Anita said about a former resident: “She was given an electric wheelchair and she could take herself around, where she wanted to go. That gave her that level of independence that she had never experienced in her life.”
By 2019, the tapes had become fragile and at risk of becoming unplayable. Thanks to a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant in 2019, they are now being digitised and safeguarded for future generations. They will be available to the public in 2021.
The digitising process will improve accessibility to the collection of oral history, photographs, and film by making them available online and in a wheelchair-accessible archive building.
Volunteers and staff are learning new skills in transcribing, editing, presenting and exhibiting the digitised collections.