Tagged: disability studies

Student Experiences of Disability and Social Networks in Higher Education


There has been a blogging hiatus here at Lewthwaite Industries, but perhaps with the best reasons. In May I submitted my corrections and in June I joined the pass list, submitting hardbound copies of my thesis in June (with thanks to the excellent Print Quarter in West Bridgford). In July I will be graduating and receiving my PhD. Whilst this has been taking place I’ve been working with Nottingham’s Human Factors Research Group, contributing to the MyUI project, a European project dedicated to developing adaptive interfaces for older users. I’ve also been developing publications from my thesis along with further research options on disability and social networks – but more on both of these developments later.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s time to introduce my thesis: “Disability 2.0: Student dis/Connections: a study of student experiences of disability and social networks on campus in higher education”. Here’s the abstract, a slightly expanded version is included on my ‘research’ pages above:

For many young people, social networks are an essential part of their student experience. Using a Foucauldian perspective, this qualitative study explores the networked experiences of disabled students to examine how dis/ability difference is ascribed and negotiated within social networks. Data comprises 34 internet-enabled interviews with 18 participants from three English universities. Accessible field methods recognise participant preferences and circumstances. Data is analysed using discourse analysis, with an attention to context framed by activity theory. Disabled students’ networked experiences are found to be complex and diverse. For a proportion, the network shifts the boundaries of disability, creating non-disabled subjectivities. For these students, the network represents the opportunity to mobilise new ways of being, building social capital and mitigating impairment.

Other participants experience the network as punitive and disabling. Disability is socio-technically ascribed by the social networking site and the networked public. Each inducts norms that constitute disability as a visible, deviant and deficit identity. In the highly normative conditions of the network, where every action is open to scrutiny, impairment is subjected to an unequal gaze that produces disabled subjectivities. For some students with unseen impairments, a social experience of disability is inducted for the first time. As a result, students deploy diverse strategies to retain control and resist deviant status. Self-surveillance, self-discipline and self-advocacy are evoked, each involving numerous social, cognitive and technological tactics for self-determination, including disconnection. I conclude that networks function both as Technologies of the Self and as Technologies of Power. For some disabled students, the network supports ‘normal’ status. For others, it must be resisted as a form of social domination.

Importantly, in each instance, the network propels students towards disciplinary techniques that mask diversity, rendering disability and the possibility of disability invisible. Consequently, disability is both produced and suppressed by the network.

I have a huge list of people to thank for insight and support over the course of my doctoral study – I also have a substantial bibliography (although I’m sure this can only get larger). Danah Boyd already maintains a substantial bibliography of social networking research, and there are significant accessibility reading lists freely available through several institutions – however, I will be developing a ‘disability’ and ‘network’ specific library here at 32 Days over the coming weeks, as this is a literature I’ve received a lot of requests about and I’m sure it will serve other researchers developing the field. I’m currently looking into the best ways to share my work whilst observing copyright obligations for the publications I have in train. Once again, more on that later.

#8 ‘Digital Agility and Disabled Learners’ by Seale, Draffan and Wald


Over the course of April I have been highlighting influential disability, technology and education research published by Routledge. All the papers cited are available for free this month to all.

SEALE, J., DRAFFAN, E. A. & WALD, M. (2010) Digital agility and digital decision-making: conceptualising digital inclusion in the context of disabled learners in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 35, 4, 445-461.

Studies in Higher Education
Studies in Higher Education

My last post outlining a selection of papers on disability and the internet was focussed on research that has taken place prior to the advent of Web 2.0. If you’ve been following my blog – you’ll also know that the vast majority of papers listed have sprung from the pages of Disability and Society. Today’s offering is strikingly different. Digital Agility and Digital Decision-Making is a paper based on landmark research undertaken by the team behind the LexDis project: Mike Wald, EADraffan and JaneSeale. LexDis been concerned with the use of technology amongst disabled learners in higher education. The strength of LexDis is that it demonstrates the capabilities of disabled students, their strategies and tactics for technology use with regard to the media they actually use – with participants actively engaging in the development of the research.

Digital Agility and Digital Decision-Making recognises and theorises disabled users’ agency, how disabled students’ ”break and enter” otherwise closed systems, the cost/benefit analyses they conduct when applying assistive technologies and so on. In this way disabled students’ ‘digital agility’ is recognised (arguably, for the first time) and presented in a lucid and viable framework.  This does not mean that barriers to accessibility can be left unresolved, or that digital skills should not be taught – but the authors identify the value of an empowerment model of development that recognises disabled people as collaborators and agents, rather than passive recipients of digital services.  As such this paper is highly recommended for anyone interested in HCI, user experience, accessibility, e-learning or assistive technology.

If you are accessing this page outside of Routledge’s free for all – be sure to check the documents stemming from the Lexdis Project itself. These are freely available day in, day out. The reports, methodology documents and other papers published from the research all reward attention.

Finally, another essential aspect of JISC funded and JISC TechDis work springing from Southampton’s accessibility Gurus  is the Web2Access website. A task-based resource which allows educators (and anyone else) to describe the task they want to achieve with students or other users, and then presents evaluative information about Web 2.0 technologies available. I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s worth saying twice: It’s a great tool.

#6 ‘The Anti-Social Model of Disability’ by Dewsbury et al.


DEWSBURY, G., CLARKE, K., RANDALL, D., ROUNCEFIELD, M. & SOMMERVILLE, I. (2004) The anti-social model of disability. Disability & Society, 19, 2. p.145-158

Disability and Society
Disability and Society

There continues to be a marked seperation between Engineering/Computer Science and Disability Studies in academia. Despite the advance of accessibility discourse and significant developments in Science and Technology Studies, where Computer Science and Disability Studies do meet, the knowledge exchange is often limited, failing to fully utilise the strengths of either discipline. Dewsbury et al’s paper may go some way to explaining one aspect of this disciplinary bifurcation. They consider the Social Model of Disability (the ‘big idea’ of the disability movement [Shakespeare & Watson, 2002]) from a design perspective and attack this representation of disability, and it’s wider sociological framing, claiming it ‘ironicises ordinary experience, treating it as somehow partial and flawed in its ignorance of what is really going on’. In this way the authors identify the social model as profoundly ‘anti-social’.

As a sociologist, I fundamentally disagree with many of the authors vehement assertions about sociology (in particular, I feel they fail to engage with the fundamental practical ethics that Disability Studies is built upon – a determination to elevate practice over theory, despite referring to their own practical politics). Nonetheless, Dewsbury et al. offer a powerful reminder that there are alternative and grounded routes into disability praxis that can deliver real positive benefits for disabled people. Importantly, they also critique the dangers of sociological hyperbole and the rabbit hole of theory – such dangers have also been forcefully identified by many disability academics and activists, and here the useful confluence of disciplinary exchange begins for an engaged reader. Dewsbury et al., manifest an engineering perspective, seeking routes into design, and testing disability theory at the same time, proffering significant food for thought for all in the process.  Reader responses are very welcome. If you can recommend further reading on this disciplinary intersection, please signpost below!

Event: Investigating Socio-Technical Experiences of Disability in Social Media.


On the 8th March 2011 from 4-6pm I will be presenting my doctoral research to researchers and students at Liverpool Hope University’s Centre for Culture and Disability Studies in the Faculty of Education. This guest lecture is offered as part of ‘Introduction to Research Methods: Disability Studies’.  If you would like to attend, please contact the CCDR’s Deputy Director Dr. Ria Cheyne via cheyner@hope.ac.uk.  More details about the location, slides and so forth will be added closer to the day. I hope to see you there!

Title: Disability 2.0: Investigating Socio-Technical Experiences of Disability in Social Media.

Abstract: For many young people, social networks are an essential part of their student experience. My research explores disabled students experiences of disability in social networks to understand how dis/ability difference is ascribed and negotiated within such networks, and the impact it has on student life. This research is firmly located within the social sciences, drawing on the thinking of Foucault to develop understandings of disability and power relations online. However, its research object, the socio-technical mediation of disability, is interdisciplinary; drawing on research territories that are unfamiliar to many disability studies researchers.

 In this talk, I give a backstage look at negotiating a path through interdisciplinary disability studies research, touching on information sciences and human computer interaction, and the particular problems and opportunities that this kind of activity presents. I introduce the notion of ‘bricolage’ as a user-friendly multi-perspective methodology and research approach that has enabled me to develop new, technology-enhanced and accessible research methods, and develop a research lens drawing on complementary methods from Activity Theory, Phenomenography, Discourse Analysis and Case Study.

This will be an interactive session aimed at researchers and students. Prior knowledge of the methods and technologies presented is not necessary. Following on from an orientation in social media research for disability studies, I will also talk about the findings of my research, which consider the ways in which social technologies reposition disabled people within taxonomies of identity, enabling some and dis-abling others.

Disability Research Forum


Two pieces of news today. Firstly, on September 30th I submitted my PhD thesis “Disability 2.0: Student dis/Connections. A study of student experiences of disability and social networks on campus in Higher Education”. As a result, from this point forward I will be showing my blog a little more TLC. However, my second piece of news may distract you from a revived and refreshed 32 Days Remaining! The all *NEW* Disability Research Forum blog now also vies for your attention. I heartily recommend the DRF blog to you for UK disability research news and updates on the Research Forum’s own activities. They are always welcoming to new members, so if you want to present, lead a discussion or simply participate from afar, the blog is a great place to start.

Disability Research Forum 2010-2011


I recently recieved this call on behalf of the Disability Research Forum. They write:

Now into its sixth year, the Disability Research Forum (DRF) continues to foster informal networks of disability scholars and provide researchers with opportunities to present their work in a friendly and encouraging environment. 

Dates for upcoming seminars are below (we have tried to vary the day and time of the meetings to allow a range of people to attend). 

  1. Thurs. 14th October 2010: 11.30am-1.30pm
  2. Mon. 15th November 2010: 12pm-2pm
  3. Tues. 14th December 2010: 12pm-2pm
  4. Tues. 15th February 2011: 1pm-3pm
  5. Fri. 25th March 2011: 11.30am-1.30pm
  6. Tues. 12th April 2011: 2pm-4pm

If you, or anybody you know, would like to present at a DRF seminar please get in touch.  Alternatively, let us know if there is an issue/article/academic book you’d like to facilitate a round table discussion on.   Even if you do not intend to present, feel free to come along, listen and share your thoughts.  

This year we are also planning to hold some seminar-days – details of these will follow shortly  … and remember 14th-15th September 2011 sees the return of the hugely successful ‘Normalcy and the Mundane’ Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University.

These informal seminars are held in Room 10111 (First Floor) Arundel Building, Charles Street, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University, S1 1WB. 

For lunchtime slots, please feel free to bring your own food and drink.

For more information (including access information) please contact: Dr Rebecca Mallett.

We are always thrilled to have new faces so please spread the word by circulating this as widely as possible – thank-you

Disability Studies Conference 2010 Webcast Programme


For the first time, the 2010 biennial 5th International Disability Studies Conference will broadcast their keynote speakers between the 7th – 9th September, 2010. This conference, held in the UK in alternate years with the Nordic Network on Disability Research, is arguably Europe’s foremost conference on disability studies, so the opportunity to view from afar is very welcome.

Presentations can be viewed live via:  http://www.lancs.ac.uk/iss/digital/disability/. Note: The conference will be broadcast in Flash ‘to maximise browser compatibility’ so it’s time to put down your iPhone.

In this post, I introduce speakers and their presentation times. This information is available via the conference website, however, as the conference pages do not link to external websites, and information about the speakers and their topics are listed across different media, for my own benefit I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing, linking and extending speaker information here.  Please note, all links open in a new window. All times given are British Summer Time (GMT +1 hour).

Tuesday 7th September: 11:30-12:30 GMT. Caroline Gooding: Equality Consultant and Special Adviser to RADAR

Keywords: Disability, Law, Employment, Rights, Discrimination

Title: “Will the new equality duty deliver progress for disabled people?”

Abstract: Great claims were made for the disability equality duty when it was introduced in 2005. The race, disability and gender equality duties share a common ambition to root out institutional discrimination and change the culture of public sector organizations. Each of the three equality duties was framed slightly differently, with the disability equality duty having a greater emphasis on the involvement of disenfranchised groups and a clearer delineation of what improved equality would mean.There were some initial indications that the disability duty had begun to deliver on its ambitious agenda. However, the duties rely on the Equality and Human Rights Commission for effective enforcement. The operational difficulties experienced by that body, coupled with its failure to provide a unifying understanding of equality for the different groups with which it is concerned, appears to have led to a faltering in the momentum.The introduction through the Equality Act 2010 of a unified equality duty extending to sexual orientation, age and religion and belief presents a new challenge for those working to promote disability equality, with concerns that it waters down the overall requirements placed on public bodies, and fails to clearly reflect the distinctive barriers confronting disabled people.

Caroline is a long term disability rights activist and for more than ten years was Chair of the Trade Union Disability Alliance. She was formerly Director of Diversity Works for London, and  Special Advisor to the Disability Rights Commission where she led on the Disability Equality Duty, Goods and Services and Legislative Change. She is qualified and has practiced as a solicitor. Her publications include:

  • Disability Rights in Europe, from theory to practice Essays in European Law (2005);
  • Blackstone’s Guide to the Disability Discrimination Act (1995);
  • Enabling Acts Disabling Laws, Disability Rights in Britain and the United States (1994).

Tuesday 7th September: 17:30-18:30. GMT, Liz Crow: Writer, director and producer at Roaring Girl productions

Liz Crow during Plinth Performance
Artist and Activist Liz Crow is pictured during her performance on the Plinth in Trafalgar Square. She wears a Nazi Uniform and is seated in a Wheelchair. This performance highlights the Nazis' Aktion T4 Program, an untold history of the holocaust during which the Nazis developed and deployed the machinery of the holocaust, killing some 275,000 disabled people.

Keywords: Disability, Arts, Film, Drama, History.

Title: “Resistance: transforming the future”.

Abstract: In this seminar, Liz will talk about her work and discuss what it means to create new cultural representations of disability as a tool for change.

Liz is a writer-director working with film, audio and text. Interested in drama, life stories and experimental work, she is drawn to the potential of storytelling to trigger change. Described as “a director of real visual flair”, her work has been praised for its ability “to get under the skin of a subject”. Liz’s work has shown at Tate Modern and the British Film Institute, as well as on television and at festivals internationally. Through a four-year NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) fellowship, she explored ways to combine her creative practice and political activism. Liz is a graduate of the Skillset Guiding Lights scheme where she was mentored by Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty).

Liz is perhaps most famous for her performance on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, as part of Anthony Gormley’s One and Other project.  The Guardian’s Top 10 From Trafalgar list, cites Liz’s protest as amongst the highlights.  A film about Liz’s performance is linked below. You can also watch Liz’s hour on the Plinth in full via the British Library Archive.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfswOExefgw]

EtCetera Issue 483 summarises the performance eloquently if you want to read about Liz and the Fourth Plinth.  Writer Allan Sutherland says “Many of the plinthers have used their hour to espouse favourite causes, be it children’s charities, bee preservation or understanding of chess. But few if any have produced a piece of work as compelling as this, which will undoubtedly remain one of the most significant contributions to Gormley’s project. Apart from the importance of the content, it presented a series of memorable images, carefully choreographed to take advantage of space and time.

Wednesday 8th September 9:30-10:30. Ruth Gould: Chief Executive Officer DaDa (Disability and Deaf Arts)

Keywords: Disability, Arts, Deaf, Theatre

Title: “Disability Arts: Ghetto Blasting?”

Abstract: Disability and Deaf arts are a way of promoting not only ‘arts for art’s sake’, but also to allow deeply held issues from the lives and experiences of disabled and deaf
people to be articulated and expressed through creative means. In an ever changing society, and one where social inclusion has been heralded as an achievement towards a more ‘culturally diverse’ Britain, the contribution of disabled and deaf communities have arguably not been elevated to the same level as other groups. In this talk, we will touch on such things as where it has the ‘movement’ come from, what has been its impact, who are its audiences and more significantly, where is it going?

“Deaf and Disability Arts are important because they allow us to make others think in a different way, breaking through perceptions and stereotypes in order to affirm our place in society.”

Ruth trained in performance arts, speech & drama, dance and mime at Liverpool Theatre School. Ruth has led workshops in Mime, Movement and Drama, and developed full-scale theatre productions. From 1992 Ruth has worked in arts administration and management including; business development for artists in the Creative Industries sector, managing start-up funds for artists, developing Disability Arts projects, and now, CEO of DaDa.

Ruth is passionate about Disability and Deaf arts being celebrated as cultural diversities in their own right. Ruth is also a board member of Liverpool 2008 Culture Company, Vice Chair of The Bluecoat Arts Centre, a council member with Arts Council England North West and co-opted Member of National Liverpool Museums Public Services Committee.

Wednesday 8th September 13:30-14:30. Adolf Ratzka: Activist for Independent Living

Keywords: Disability, Independent Living, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, policy

Title: “Beyond the Social Model of Disability: An emphasis on disabled peoples’ status as citizens and consumers is needed for self determination and full participation”.

Abstract: The success of disabled peoples’ struggle for self-determination and equal participation in society will ultimately depend on the model of disability to which disabled people themselves and society at large subscribe to. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other policy documents emphasize disabled peoples’ status as citizens. Adding the perspective of disabled people as consumers of services implies policies that use cash payments and demand-driven competitive markets for services where previously supply-driven government or quasi-public monopolies for services in kind existed. These developments will increase many disabled peoples’ freedom of choice and opportunities for self-determination and participation.

Adolf Ratzka is an internationally renowned activist for independent living. He is known for leading the Swedish Independent Living movement. He set up the pilot project on personal assistance, which was to become the model for the Swedish Personal Assistance Act of 1994. The then Minister of Social Affairs, Bengt Westerberg, invited Adolf to Parliament when the Act made into law. Adolf was the founding chair of ENIL, the European Network on Independent Living, which works for disabled citizens’ personal and political power, for self-determination and against discrimination.

In 1999 he was recognized by TIME magazine as European visionary for the new millennium, mainly for his pioneering work for cash payments replacing services in kind thereby promoting disabled people’s right to self-determination and freedom of choice. Adolf received the European Citizen Award from the European Anti-Discrimination Council in 2008. Also in November 2008 he led an international conference to celebrate twenty-five years of independent living in Sweden.

Thursday 9th September 11:30-12:30. Alana Officer: Coordinator for Disability and Rehabilitation, World Health Organisation

Keywords: Disability, policy, research, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, international development,

Title: Research and policy working together to improve the lives of disabled people worldwide

Abstract: Disability studies, which emerged from the disabled people’s movement, values engagement and praxis. Yet does it reflect the needs and priorities of the millions of disabled people in the world? Does it provide evidence of what works in policy and practice? The World Health Organization, in partnership with the World Bank, is developing the first ever global report on the situation of disabled people. The World Report on Disability aims to provide governments and civil society with a comprehensive description and analysis of the importance of disability, to characterize the responses currently provided, and to make recommendations for action consistent with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The available scientific evidence suggests that disability studies is far from achieving its potential, particularly in developing countries. This talk will highlight how the CRPD provides an agenda for action, explain why the ICF offers a way forward for applied research and look at how together, we can make a difference.

Alana Officer is a native of New Zealand. She holds a diploma in Applied Science (Podiatric Medicine) from the Institute of Technology in Sydney, Australia; a Master’s degree in Applied Science (research) from the University of Sydney, Australia; and a Masters degree in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Prior to joining WHO in July 2006, Ms Officer held a number of technical and managerial positions working on disability, rehabilitation and development in West and Central Africa, Europe, South Asia and the Western Pacific. Ms Officer was the Country Director for Handicap International (HI) in India.

Alana Officer joined WHO in July 2006, and is now Coordinator for the Disability and Rehabilitation Team. She oversees WHO’s work on disability and rehabilitation related to policies, medical care and rehabilitation, community-based rehabilitation, assistive devices and technologies, and capacity building. She is the executive editor of the World report on disability and rehabilitation due for release in 2009.

 

A Chair is a Wheelchair


This Spring I’m pleased to say I’ll be teaching as an Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University as part of their BA (Hons) programme in Education and Disability Studies. From January onwards I’m teaching Exploring Disability History. This has given me a great excuse to engage with new literature and research, alongside revisiting papers and materials. If you’ve visited this blog before, you’ll know my writing usually focuses strongly on disability, technology and accessibility issues, with some broader references to my experiences of the PhD process and Educational Technology. However, the teaching preparation has already set off various different chains of thought which I hope to explore here over the next few weeks. My first tidbit is an unpublished poem by Tanja Muster ‘A Chair is a Wheelchair’ translated from German and reproduced in ‘The ADA on the Road: Disability Rights in Germany’ by Katharina C. Heyer (University of Hawai’i). I’ve reproduced the poem below in both English and the original German.

A Chair is a Wheelchair

A chair
looking carefully
A chair is a chair is a
wheelchair
A judgement is a judgement is a
mis-judgment (prejudice)
A disability is a disability is a
State-sponsored measure.

Ein Stuhl ist ein Rollstuhl

Ein Stuhl
Genau besehen
Ein Stuhl is ein Stuhl ist ein
Rollstuhl
Ein Urteil ist ein Urteil ist ein
Vorurteil
Eine Behinderung ist eine Behinderung ist eine
staatlich geforderte Massnahme.

According to Heyer:

This poem circulated in German disability circles in the fall of 1997 as an expression of outrage against Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court’s October 29 ruling that disabled students do not have a right to an integrated education and may be forced to attend a special school for disabled children (Bundesverfassungsgericht, 9 October, 1997).

I found the title particularly striking. For me ‘A Chair Is A Wheelchair’ is the most succinct expression of disability as a continuum I’ve come across. I find the poem deceptively simple.  In English, the writer very playfully sets up ‘norms’ and then inverts them alternately line by line. But with each inversion the poem progresses and deepens.  This progression moves from the cultural norm (the regular Chair becoming the irregular Wheelchair) to the legal norm (now exposing a regular and normal legislature as, in fact, failing and prejudiced) to return to the notion of disability, this time invested with normalcy, inverted and made irregular by the State.  In each case, I love how the repetition physically installs a ‘mainstream’ in the poem, whilst simultaneously moving the reader across a spectrum of perspectives.