Teaching Advanced Research Methods?


I’ve added two new articles to my publications list.

The first is a short (open access) NCRM Quick Start Guide to Teaching Advanced Research MethodsThis distills new research into pedagogic content knowledge in Social Science research methods teaching. Further guides on this topic will follow over the next few months. If you’re teaching research methods be sure to check this out. Comments welcome!

The second is another open piece written for the LSE Review of Books, reviewing Helen Kara’s new book ‘Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide’. The review was published this week on the LSE Review of Books and will be added to the LSE’s Social Science Impact blog at the weekend. If you are a teacher or student of creative methods, do check this out.

Pedagogy of Methodological Learning project site launches!


Over at the Pedagogy of Methodological Learning project, we have launched a new website detailing our research, events and publications. If you are interested in how research methods are learned and taught, be sure to subscribe to the site and check out our activities and growing list of open resources. See you there!

Research Fellow @ National Centre for Research Methods


At the start of this week I began a new post as a Research Fellow at the Economic and Social Research Council‘s National Centre for Research Methods here in the UK. I’m now based at the University of Southampton and located in their Centre for Social Justice and Inclusive Education in the School of Education. My project, ‘Investigating the pedagogy of methodological learning‘, researches the learning and teaching of advanced qualitative research methods with a view to developing  pedagogy and dialogue in this neglected area.  I’m delighted to be working closely with the project’s principal investigator, Professor Melanie Nind, who is an expert in inclusive pedagogy and research.

I’m also pleased to say that all publications and outputs from our project will be open and publicly available, as this is now an ESRC standard. I’ll be sure to signpost from this site as and when documents and other materials become available.

 

Disability and Rehabilitation: Special Issue on Universal Design


Disability and Rehabilitation have published a Special Issue on Universal Design (vol 36, no. 16, 2014), edited by Rob Imrie and Rachael Luck. This includes my paper Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility‘ (abstract follows below). If you would like to download the paper, but do not have access to the journal you can access one of 15 ePrints I have to give away (this access has now expired 22/01/2015). Alternatively, get in touch with me directly via selewthwaite [at] gmail.com. Here are the details:

Abstract: Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility.

Purpose: Currently, dominant web accessibility standards do not respect disability as a complex and culturally contingent interaction; recognizing that disability is a variable, contrary and political power relation, rather than a biological limit. Against this background there is clear scope to broaden the ways in which accessibility standards are understood, developed and applied.
Methods: Commentary.
Results: The values that shape and are shaped by legislation promote universal, statistical and automated approaches to web accessibility. This results in web accessibility standards conveying powerful norms fixing the relationship between technology and disability, irrespective of geographical, social, technological or cultural diversity.
Conclusions: Web accessibility standards are designed to enact universal principles; however, they express partial and biopolitical understandings of the relation between disability and technology. These values can be limiting, and potentially counter-productive, for example, for the majority of disabled people in the “Global South” where different contexts constitute different disabilities and different experiences of web access. To create more robust, accessible outcomes for disabled people, research and standards practice should diversify to embrace more interactional accounts of disability in different settings.

Imrie and Luck’s special issue is a landmark collection in the conceptual development of Universal Design.  Amongst the papers, ‘Parallels and problems of normalization in rehabilitation and universal design: enabling connectivities’, by Barbara E. Gibson is available as an Open Access PDF. Other titles include:

  • ‘Designing inclusive environments: rehabilitating the body and the relevance of universal design’, by Rob Imrie, Rachael Luck
  • ‘Universally design social policy: when disability disappears?’ by Jerome Bickenbach
  • ‘Universal design and the challenge of diversity: reflections on the principles of UD, based on empirical research of people’s mobility’ by Myriam Winance
  • ‘Universal Design and disability: an interdisciplinary perspective’ by Inger Marie Lid
  • ‘DeafSpace and the principles of universal design’ by Claire Edwards and Gill Harold
  • ‘About the nature of design in universal design’ by Ann Heylighen
  • ‘Situating universal design architecture: designing with whom?’ by Paul Jones

Further presentations and podcasts from the series of seminars that led this this special issue are available via the universalising design project website which rewards exploration. Comments and questions, as ever, are welcome! 

Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility


My new paper ‘Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility’ is now available as an ‘early online’ publication via the Journal of Disability and Rehabilitation. If you would like to read the article, but do not have access to the journal please get in touch with me directly, via selewthwaite [at] gmail .com, as I have 15 eprints to give away.

The paper will be published as part of a forthcoming Disability and Rehabilitation special issue focussed on universalism in design, edited by Rob Imrie. I will post the full details of the Special Issue when they become available. If you are interested this area, be sure to check out the Universalising Design project website, for events, research and news convened by Prof. Imrie and his team.

Abstract: Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility.

Purpose: Currently, dominant web accessibility standards do not respect disability as a complex and culturally contingent interaction; recognizing that disability is a variable, contrary and political power relation, rather than a biological limit. Against this background there is clear scope to broaden the ways in which accessibility standards are understood, developed and applied.
Methods: Commentary.
Results: The values that shape and are shaped by legislation promote universal, statistical and automated approaches to web accessibility. This results in web accessibility standards conveying powerful norms fixing the relationship between technology and disability, irrespective of geographical, social, technological or cultural diversity.
Conclusions: Web accessibility standards are designed to enact universal principles; however, they express partial and biopolitical understandings of the relation between disability and technology. These values can be limiting, and potentially counter-productive, for example, for the majority of disabled people in the “Global South” where different contexts constitute different disabilities and different experiences of web access. To create more robust, accessible outcomes for disabled people, research and standards practice should diversify to embrace more interactional accounts of disability in different settings.

Implications for Rehabilitation

  • Creating accessible experiences is an essential aspect of rehabilitation.
  • Web standards promote universal accessibility as a property of an online resource or service. This undervalues the importance of the user’s intentions, expertize, their context, and the complex social and cultural nature of disability.
  • Standardized, universal approaches to web accessibility may lead to counterproductive outcomes for disabled people whose impairments and circumstances do not meet Western disability and accessibility norms.
  • Accessible experiences for rehabilitation can be enhanced through an additional focus on holistic approaches to accessibility blending digital and physical solutions, the use of BS 8878 and mixed-method approaches to accessibility benchmarking.
  • Web standards and accessibility conformance should be considered together with user input and the recognition and development of local accessibility and rehabilitation expertize.

Keywords: accessibility, cultural norms, disability theory, WCAG, web standards.

Current Issues: New article on DSAs in Disability and Society


I have a new ‘Current Issues’ paper on cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances, published this week (4th July 2014) by the Journal of Disability and Society.

Reference: Lewthwaite, Sarah (2014) ‘Current issues: Government cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances must be resisted‘ Disability and Society. 4th July 2014.

The paper highlights issues around proposed cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances and places them within a conceptual frame, focussing particularly on the relationship between Disabled Students’ Allowances, disclosure and how disability is defined in UK higher education. The article identifies how disabled peoples’ access to higher education will be endangered by cuts. In addition, research suggests that if DSAs are cut, the impetus to disclose disability will be reduced; as a result many disabled students within higher education could become invisible within academic statistics, damaging the validity of equality statistics. The article then draws on evidence to discuss the knock-on implications for the allocation of resources and satisfaction metrics. Finally, the article focusses on the ways in which DSAs shape how disability is defined (that is: who is consider disabled and who is considered non-disabled) in English higher education, and how government cuts will result in a redefinition that compromises both social and medical models of disability. Conceptually, cuts are observed to express Government’s regulation of disabled students as an enaction of biopower. I conclude that there is a risk with the proposed cuts, some disabled students will themselves be cut; excluded from higher education or rendered invisible within it.

The journal of Disability and Society is not an open-access journal. However, as the author, I have a limited number of copies (50) of the article that I can allocate freely. If you are working in this area, or involved in advocacy or consultation on cuts to DSAs, and cannot access the journal, please get in touch for your copy and I will be please to supply a copy. I will give preference to advocates and non-academic readers, so please let me know if you fall into either (or both) of these categories.

Finally; I’d like to highlight the value of ‘Current Issues’ and similar sections in academic journals for academics and researchers working in ‘live’ subject areas, particularly via open access journals. For my purposes, I pitched the paper to Disability and Society as the journal is a central to Disability Studies in the UK (and elsewhere). Disability and Society have a fast-track review process that means a ‘current issues’ article can be submitted, reviewed, amended and put through final copy process within 6-8 weeks for online publication. Full guidance on writing for this section is available on the journal website. My paper is short by journal standards (around 2,000 words) but much longer than many news or blog articles. As an academic publication, more conceptual and theoretical angles can be brought to bear upon the subject than other venues might allow. Many other journals have similar ‘current issues’ sections, and if you are wanting to disseminate your work or analysis these definitely bear consideration.

As ever, any comments are very welcome.

Funding cuts to disabled students will hit some universities hard


Today the Guardian published my article on the institutional implications of changes to Disabled Students Allowances. This piece identifies how cuts will have repercussions for the higher education sector as whole, not just students.

Image of Guardian article on institutional impact of cuts to DSAs
Image of Guardian article on institutional impact of cuts to DSAs

Tomorrow (Wednesday 2nd July) changes to Disabled Students’ Allowances will be debated in the House of Commons in ‘Westminster Hall’ debate from 2.30pm – 4.30pm.  Many MPs have expressed their concern about cuts to DSAs through parliamentary questions and by signing Early Day Motion (EDM) 48 (which has 95 signatories at time of writing). If you want to protect DSAs, the National Union of Students and other organisations are calling upon all students and supporters to lobby their MPs to attend the debate:

To ensure there are as many MPs as possible taking part, do get in touch with your MP to ask them to attend and speak at the debate. We have created a template letter which you can use.

And keep using the #degreesofdiscrimination hashtag on twitter and tweeting at your MPs too!

If you want to attend the debate, there is no system of tickets or advanced booking. Places are limited and visitors are admitted on a first come, first served basis. More information and details are available on the Westminster Hall pages of the UK parliament website.

Cuts to grant funding for disabled students will put their studies at risk


Today the Guardian published my evidenced-based take on proposed cuts to Disabled Students Allowances. 

Image of article on cuts to disability grants on Guardian website
Image of article on cuts to disability grants on Guardian website

On April 6th 2014, the minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP, announced sweeping cuts and changes to Disabled Students’ Allowances in England. These cuts threaten disabled and dyslexic students’ studies.

I strongly advise all UK readers to petition these cuts and contact you MPs to ensure a parliamentary debate and Equality Impact Assessment before any changes to DSAs are made.

Edge 3 Accessibility Panel Video (Subtitled)


Following on from my last post on the availability of video from the EdgeConf London Accessibility panel earlier this month, I’m pleased to report that captioned and edited versions of all sessions are now online.  The newly subtitled Accessibility panel is embedded and linked below. The full playlist is available from the Google Chrome Developers YouTube account. Importantly, with all sessions now transcribed, you can search session transcripts via the EdgeConf site to discover relevant content more quickly.

Edge 3 Accessibility Panel Video


Yesterday the third Edge Conference was held in London. Footage from the afternoon’s Accessibility panel is now available via Google’s Web Developer account on YouTube (embedded below). From left to right, the panellists are Derek Featherstone (Simply Accessible) who also gives the opening address, myself (King’s College London), Chris Heilmann (Mozilla, our moderator), Alice Boxhall (Google), Andrew Ronksley (RNIB) and Matthew Tyler Atkinson (Paciello Group). If you’re listening to the video without visual cues, listen out for our (helpful!) accents. Derek is Canadian, Chris is German, myself, Andrew and Matthew are the Brits and Alice has the Aussie accent. As ever, comments are welcome! More reflections on the panel and conference as a whole to follow soon.