Disability Studies and..., DRF News

Understanding disability through online interaction

[From DRF Member: Jayne Sellick  – find out more about Jayne on the People page]

In this piece I would like to draw your attention to a blog that I have composed as part of my ongoing doctoral research in the Geography Department at Durham University (UK). As it is intended to be user-led I’m looking for suggestions about where I might go to address potential participants or audiences; whom to contact to at which organisations or groups; or personal experiences of conducting online research. Despite the accessibility issues associated with some online networks I’m using Twitter and setting up a Facebook group to tell the world about the blog and hopefully start some new conversations!

The Blog – The purpose of disidentities.com is to access the views, experiences, opinions and current debates that are important to disability, health, illness, (chronic) pain and impairment. Drawing on both online and offline participants is just one step towards providing new understandings of the temporal and spatial experiences of dis(abled) identities.

Disidentities.com has been established using a participatory framework that positions the users of the research in a central role, encouraging them to make decisions, choose methods or topics and determine outcomes. Therefore the research project becomes a collaboration that involves working together to produce effective and relevant research.

The blog offers a space to listen, to share and to collaborate, where participants are asked to focus on change over time, thinking through the past or present and towards the future. While this complements the offline encounters that have taken place with wheelchair users; chronic pain groups; amputees; people who are blind or visually impaired; and partners or carers – the project is interested in:

  • Day-to-day and mundane routines;
  • Longer term change over time;
  • Practices and processes encountered or adopted as part of the above;
  • The role of other people (medical professionals, family, friends) in these experiences.

While the blog allows users to address the current themes or adopt their own, the following developed in face-to-face settings with participants retelling their own narratives:

  • The role of recovery refers to using alternative therapies as a way of ‘forgetting’ pain; spacing and breaking up time to perform tasks and organise daily routines; attending hospital appointments as  part of a process of temporary recovery;
  • The role of comfort refers to users discussing moments without bodily or emotional pain;
  • The role of different emotions associated with daily living or other experiences; feelings before, during and after treatment; revisiting emotions from the past; and the future of longer term emotions disidentities.

These are just starting points and provide an indication of things participants have been discussing.

You can contact me directly on j.m.sellick@durham.ac.uk, through the blog or comment on this post below. I’m looking forward to hearing people’s reactions, suggestions and own experiences.

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