DRF News

Happy New Year from the DRF!

Since its rather low-key launch on 13th September 2010, the Disability Research Forum (DRF) has seen its profile and readership rise month on month.  The DRF is quickly becoming an international network keeping disability researchers up-to-date with the latest developments in research, policy, legislation and activism.  Recent additions to the blog include a Where else? page full of useful and interesting disability-related links, a re-vamped Events section and a UK Activism page where we intend to disseminate information on the impact of the ‘cuts’ on disabled people in the UK.

With well over 3000 hits in just over 3 months and with more than 50 people signed up to its posts, the DRF can now boasts members from UK, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Kenya, Bulgaria and Botswana – to name a few!  It is the diversity of its members which makes the DRF such a vibrant and interesting space.

In this spirit of comradeship and camaraderie, may we wish you a happy and prosperous 2011 and leave you with some ideas of ways to get even more involved over the coming 12 months.

  1. add comments by using the ‘Leave a Comment’ function at the bottom of most posts – for instance, you could share a relevant journal article related to the topic 
  2. submit brief biographical and contact details to be listed in the People section and/or update us on your recent published work to be listed in the Publications section** – these are great ways to promote you and your work
  3. if geographically possible, offer to present your work at an upcoming DRF seminar in Sheffield** – although, most slots for for the first half of 2011 are taken we will be drawing up the schedule for the 2011-2012 academic year shortly so get in touch
  4. there is nothing better than getting together with others to talk ‘disability’, so wherever you call home, use the Events section to plan your conference attendance for 2011-2012
  5. if you have not already done so, click on the Sign me up! button to the right. You will receive email alerts of new postings, which will include reminders of upcoming events and the details of ‘Call for Papers’ as new conferences are announced. 
  6. spread the word – using the buttons at the bottom of posts you can use facebook and twitter to tell others about the DRF.  Alternatively, good old email or word of mouth work equally well – the more the merrier!

 [** Please contact Rebecca Mallett: r.mallett@shu.ac.uk]

Best wishes from everyone involved in the DRF!

DRF News

UK Research Councils’ Funding Allocation and Delivery Plans are Unveiled

As many disability researchers in the UK rely on the research councils for funding we thought it would be useful to share the following developments.

RCUK (Research Councils UK) recently announced their funding allocations for 2011-12 to 2014-15. These are published on the RCUK website together with the delivery plans of each of the Research Councils. The ESRC budget will decline from £174,637,000 in 2011-12 to £166,186,000 in 2014-15.  Along with the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), the ESRC received the largest percentage cut of 2.6%.  As part of the settlement negotiated with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the ESRC has been involved in the shaping of its plans in line with government objectives.

Highlights of the ESRC delivery plan are as follows (our emphasis):

  • It will seek to more thoroughly embed the impact agenda for the co-production of research with third parties, especially in the private sector and public policy through its pathways to impact strategy
  • Strategic funding will be concentrated on three ESRC priorities – Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth, Influencing Behaviour and Informing Interventions, and A Vibrant and Fair Society. A greater proportion of funding will be directed at these three priorities and it is expected some funding that remains within the responsive mode will also go to projects in these three areas.
  • Small grants scheme will be closed and resources concentrated on longer, larger grants, with the minimum threshold for these grants set at £200,000.
  • Postdoctoral fellowships and mid-career development fellowships will be abolished and replaced with a new ‘Future Leaders’ grant scheme. This will provide grants of up to two years and will be open to applicants within 6 years of their PhD. It is expected there will be 50-80 new grants per year.
  • Overall number of doctoral scholarships will be reduced from around 750 to 600. There will be no studentship competition, all PhD studentships will be assigned as quotas to Doctoral Training Centres. The majority of the studentships will be assigned to strategic areas. These include the three priority areas for interdisciplinary research as well as priority disciplines such as Economics, Management and Business Studies, Language based Area Studies, Behavioural and Macro-Economics, and Quantitative Social Science.
  • ESRC will continue to support cross-council themes linking them to the three priority areas. These themes are: Global Uncertainties, Living with Environmental Change, Ageing: Lifelong Health and Wellbeing, Digital Economy, Energy, Global Food Security – to find out more on these themes click here
DRF News

Disability Research Gets a New Doctor

We are thrilled to announce that on 22nd November 2010, long-standing and dedicated DRF member Sarah Lewthwaite successfully navigated her viva.  Examined by Prof. Jane Seale (Plymouth) and Dr. Kay Hawe (Nottingham), a summary of the thesis is below and more information about Sarah’s work can be found on our People and Publications pages.  Congratulations Dr Sarah!!!

PhD Title: Disability 2.0: Student dis/Connections.  A study of student experiences of disability and social networks on campus in Higher Education.

PhD Summary: Sarah’s thesis explores the networked experiences of disabled students to examine how dis/ability difference is ascribed and negotiated within the social network Facebook.  The thesis presents 18 case studies that generated 34 internet-enabled phenomenographic interviews.  The research draws on the thinking of Foucault and the notion of bricolage as an approach to research that lies at the juncture between disability studies, educational research and social media.  The research finds that networks are shown to have the potential to reposition disabled students within taxonomies of identity.  Two interrelated conclusions are drawn.  First, social networks are essential to student life, yet not all students can access them on an equal basis, introducing a digital divide with material social outcomes.  Second, networks represent a redefinition of dis/ability where some students with impairments are non-disabled, or may adopt non-disabled interactions, where others do not.  Diversity is thus suppressed and students disabled by the network are doubly disadvantaged as disability is rendered invisible and the social and digital divide of the network is reinforced.

Critical Theory, DRF News

Programme for ‘Critical Autism Seminar Day’ (18th Jan 2011)

The programme for the Critical Autism Seminar Day is outlined below.  Further details (including abstracts) will be sent directly to participants shortly. 

We have only a couple of spare places for the day, so if you are no longer able to attend please email us to free up your place for another delegate.  If you have not signed up but would like to attend the seminar day and/or the book launch please email and, if necessary, you will be added to a waiting list. 

Contact for this event: Katherine Runswick-Cole: k.runswick-cole@mmu.ac.uk

Programme for the Day:


  • Welcome: Alison Tyldesley (Head of Department for Education, Childhood and Inclusion) Sheffield Hallam University
  • Introduction: Nick Hodge, Sheffield Hallam University


  • “Wild men”, introverts and idols: Negotiating the autism spectrum diagnosis of celebrities in popular music ~ Mitzi Walz, University of Birmingham
  • Social dis-order: Autistic experiences of/in radical political activism ~ Steve Graby, Disabled People’s Direct Action Network and Autism Rights Movement UK and Anat Greenstein, Manchester Metropolitan University

 11.00-11.30: Break – Refreshments will be available for purchase


  •  ‘I’ve got Asperger’s because I read it on the Internet’: An analysis on how labels are formed and placed on young men and how this can be tackled ~ Michael Richards, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Who am I meant to be?  In search of a psychological account of autism, from the viewpoint of an ‘insider’ ~ Damian Milton, University of Birmingham
  • Buying (into) Autism: The Commodification of ‘Disability’ in the Academy ~ Rebecca Mallett, Sheffield Hallam University and Katherine Runswick-Cole, Manchester Metropolitan University

 1.00-2.15: Lunch and Posters – Lunch will be available for purchase


  •  Keynote speaker: “We have your son…”:  Frames of Terror in Advocacy’s War on Autism: Anne McGuire, University of Toronto


  •  Uneasy Belonging: Autism and Immigration Practice in Canada ~ Patty Douglas,University of Toronto

3.30-4.00: Break – Refreshments will be available for purchase


  • Autism: A poststructuralist analysis ~ Dan Goodley, Manchester Metropolitan University

 4.30-6.00: The launch of Dan Goodley’s new book: Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction

We envisage Critical Autism as a space which not only challenges ‘deficit’ understandings of autism but also challenges the category itself.  In this respect, we position the emerging field of Critical Autism Studies as having its antecedents in the more critical corners of Disability Studies.  This means not only examining how autism challenges the ways in which we think about employability, family, friendship, love, etc but also how Critical Disability Studies challenges how we think about autism.  The papers we have gathered for this day all – to varying degrees – explore these challenges. We are very much looking forward to some interesting presentations and some stimulating discussions.

[Please note: We would also like to apologise for a mistake in the advertisement of the conference which on Sheffield Hallam University’s Autism Centre website, which described it as an Autism Awareness Conference.  This is NOT the case.  We hope the programme gives you a clear idea of the focus of the day – if you no longer wish to attend, please let us know.]


New Book on/by ‘Disabled Women’ Published

A new book – Living the Edges: A Disabled Women’s Reader edited by Diane Driedger – has just been published. 

This collection brings together the diverse voices of women with various impairments, both physical and mental. The women speak frankly about the societal barriers they encounter in their everyday lives due to social attitudes and physical and systemic inaccessibility. They bring to light the discrimination they experience through sexism, because they are women, and through ableism, because they have impairments. For them, the personal is definitely political.

Here, Canadian women discuss their lives in the areas of employment, body image, sexuality and family life, society’s attitudes, and physical, sexual and emotional abuse. While society traditionally views having a disability as “weakness” and that women are the “weaker” sex, this collection points to the strength, persistence, and resilience of disabled women living the edges.

Articles include, among others:

  • “Feminism, Disability and Transcendence of the Body” by Susan Wendell
  • “Living on the Edges” by Charlotte Caron and Gail Christy
  • “Mirror Woman: Cracked Up Crazy Bitch Conja Identity” by Marie Annharte Baker;
  • “Margins Are Not For Cowards” by Cheryl Gibson; “Triple Jeopardy: Native Women with Disabilities” by Doreen Demas
  • “Coming Out of Two Closets” by Jane Field; “Performing My Leaky Body” by Julie Devaney
  • “To Be Or Not to Be? Whose  Question Is It, Anyway? Two Women With Disabilities Discuss the Right To Assisted Suicide” by Tanis Doe and Barbara Ladouceu
  • “Living Poorly: Disabled Women on Income Support” by Sally Kimpson
  • “‘Have You Experienced Violence or Abuse?’: Talking With Girls and Young Women with Disabilities” by Michelle Owen
  • “The Geography of Oppression” by Joy Asham

We like to draw your attention, particularly, to the chapter ‘Art, Sticks and Politics’ by the marvellous Nancy Hansen.

Events and Conferences, Inclusion

(Re)thinking inclusivity in higher education event

Call for presentations and bookings to participate in forum to share ‘inclusive’ practice within higher education, 4th April 2011 at Sheffield Hallam University.

Sheffield Hallam University, in partnership with both Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Sheffield, is delighted to be hosting this unique and free one-day event. This Show ‘n’ Share Fair will provide an opportunity for staff to network, share “inclusive” practice and generate new ideas to enhance innovation in teaching practice and support for all students, embracing the diversity each student brings into the realm of higher education.

You are invited to submit a proposal to present and share an aspect of your “inclusive” practice with interested colleagues. This is an opportunity for our colleagues to learn first-hand and ask questions about the uniqueness of your teaching and support practice which engages students from diverse backgrounds. For more information about submitting a proposal please click here.

Of course, one does not have to show ‘n’ share something to attend this event. If interested in only attending and witness the various inclusive and innovative teaching and practices that are occurring in our very own institutions, please register click here.

Click here for more specific information on event

Events and Conferences

Call for Papers: ‘Learning to be Disabled: Cultures of Care and the Emotional Responses of Disabled WWI soldiers’

Event: Symposium ECER 2011 – Network 17: Histories of Education

For the upcoming ECER (European Conference on Educational Research) is taking place in Berlin, Germany on Tuesday September 13th and Friday September 16th 2011.  A Call for Papers has been released a symposium on the theme of “Learning to be disabled: Cultures of care and the emotional responses of disabled WW1 soldiers”.

In 1915 the French illustrated newspaper L’illustration featured a drawing by Paul Renouard. The picture showed a group of blinded French soldiers from the First World War tapping forward with uncertain steps and wooden canes. All of them were guided by a dazzling whirl of white nurses who looked upon the strange row of mutilated men with a mix of compassion and adoration. The illustration was entitled ‘ceux qui apprennent à être aveugles’. The title suggests that after being physically blinded on the battlefield those soldiers had to face another and more challenging task in the aftermath of the war, namely that of being blind. All of them had to incorporate their impairment, reorganise their identity and learn what is meant to be, to think and to behave as a blind man.

By means of this call for contributions the organisers would like to invite scholars from different European countries – or countries who were active in Europe during the Great War – to reflect on the complex and multilayered relation between learning processes on the one hand and disabled identities on the other. In particular they seek contributions which are able to contextualize the problematic and conflicting relationships between learning and disability with regard to the disabled veterans from the First World War – while the war was ongoing between 1914 and 1918 as well as during the Interwar period. In this way they would like to explore to what extent the pioneering work of David Gerber, Julie Anderson and Ana Carden-Coyne on the crossroad of military history and disability studies can be continued and pushed forward to new and undiscovered terrains or insights. Identity formation indeed has become a major theme in contemporary disability studies but untill now the underlying learning processes to a great extent have been neglected. By examining the intersection of what Jeffrey Reznick has called ‘cultures of care’ and the emotional responses of disabled veterans with regard to the rehabilitative efforts all of the belligerent countries undertook during and after the war they would like to stimulate scholars to inquire the role played by learning processes in the formation of disabled identities more thoroughly.

Unfortunately, as the conference explicitly urges scholars to address topics that relate to the European context, abstracts dealing with the emotional responses of disabled soldiers in non-European contexts will not be accepted.  Non-European scholars addressing the rehabilitation of European disabled soldiers or relating their research to the European context are very much welcomed.

Abstracts should contain of no more then 200 words and should be send electronically to Pieter Verstraete (pieter.verstraete@ped.kuleuven.be) before January 1st 2011 at the latest. Scholars will be notified on January 10th if their abstract will be submitted. Around March 15th authors will receive an e-mail with the result of the reviewing process by the board of Network 17 ‘Histories of Education’ with regard to the submitted symposium in general.

More information with regard to this call for contributions can be obtained by e-mailing Pieter Verstraete (pieter.verstraete@ped.kuleuven.be).

More information with regard to the ECER conference (e.g. registration formalities) can be found at: http://www.eera-ecer.eu/ecer/ecer-2011-berlin/

DRF News, Majority/Minority Worlds

UN ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ Celebrated

The now annual observance of the United Nation’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd was established by the International Year for Disabled Persons in 1981. The aim of the day is to promote a better understanding of disability issues with a focus on the rights of disabled people in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities. The theme this year is “Keeping the promise: Mainstreaming disability in the Millennium Development Goals towards 2015 and beyond” and stems from concerns that while the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cannot be fully achieved without full inclusion, the current track toward their achievement may be increasing marginalization. There is also worry that the persistent and cumulative impact of multiple global crises threaten the progress made toward the achievement of the MDGs and that will have a disproportionate and negative impact on disabled people.  Consequently, while the day celebrates the place of disability rights on international agendas it also acts as a renewal of commitment to continue the push for change.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted in December 2006 at the UN Headquarters in New York, and was opened for signature in March 2007. You can check whether your country has signed and ratified the convention and the optional protocol here.

The BBC’s excellent Ouch! blog has an interesting post and space for comments on the day.

…and don’t forget the DRF’s very own Where Else? section which lists loads of places to find more disability- related stuff.

Happy celebrations!!!

DRF News, Policy and Legislation

BBC Marks 40 Years since First UK Disability Act

Those of you in the UK may be interested that this week the BBC (especially BBC News) are running a series of features looking at issues facing disabled people. It has been titled Access All Areas and is being done to commemorate 40 years since the first UK Disability Act. The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which was passed in 1970 and championed by (Lord) Alf Morris, included ideas such as the right to proper assessment of your needs and the need to make environments accessible to disabled people.

More information on the Act can be found here and an outline of the series can be found here.

An interesting BBC survey commissioned for the ‘Access All Areas’ series can be found here.

This also coincides with the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Friday (3rd December 2010).  An overview of what British broadcasters are doing to celebrate this day can be found here.