DRF Events 2019-2020

Ever since it began, an important part of the DRF has been bringing people together.  Since 2005 it has worked to create informal networks by providing friendly and encouraging environments in which to discuss and think through all things ‘disability’.

In this section we offer details of upcoming DRF events as well as events hosted by and/or of interest to DRF members.

In case you are interested in contributing to one of our future sessions, please contact Steph Hannam-Swain: s.r.hananm-swain@shu.ac.uk . Please also have a look at our guidelines about accessible presentations.

If you have any accessibility requirements, including having someone to meet you beforehand please email Steph to try to facilitate.

Monday, 18th November

Time: 2 – 4pm

Place: Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus. Charles Street Building, Room 12.4.18 (This is on the fourth floor), Howard Street, S1 1WB.

Speaker 1: Celina Kamecka

Title: Dis-ability = dis-active? Reasons for discussing civic activity of Polish students with intellectual disabilities


For 4 years I have been conducting civic education workshops in special schools in which students with intellectual disability learn in Poland. During this time I carried out 3 research projects regarding the civic activity and identity of students and I would like to talk about it. It will not surprise anyone how important and effective civic education is.  And it is already a truism to speak about the rights guaranteed to persons with disabilities by the UN Conventions. That is why in my presentation I would like to focus on two other aspects. First, how Polish students with intellectual disabilities perceive themselves as citizens, and how they evaluate their civic activity.  Secondly, how the support system for people with intellectual disabilities in Poland can determine their perception of their citizenship. Presenting the results of my research, I will focus on video recordings that students have prepared themselves as part of the film workshop title: “what is the common good for me”. And on our conversations regarding the space of their civic activity,  which is a deepening of the answers obtained in the adapted questionnaire for quantitative research. Author’s adaptation of the ready questionnaire for civic activity to the needs of people with intellectual disabilities – which I will also present, showed new fields of social and research participation of my respondents.

Speaker 2: Stephen Connolly

Title: Everyone should do emancipaticipatory research, but i don’t want to do it again.


This talk will be on the issues encountered when doing emanciparticipatory research right. Focusing on the methodology of my PhD I will be discussing the unexpected but now obvious paradoxical effect where the bigger the strength for those that would be traditionally termed participants, the bigger the issue you face as a researcher.

Terms linked to emanciparticipatory research would be freedom, flexibility, open and no time pressures. However within the confines of academia these terms present a problem that must be navigated for emanciparticipatory research to survive.

This overarching problem also forms the foundations for my argument that emancipatory research is a goal that currently can not be achieved within academia and i am to explain why.

Thursday, 12th December

Time: 2 – 4pm

Place: Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus. Charles Street Building, Room 12.2.19 (This is on the second floor), Howard Street, S1 1WB.

Speaker 1: Sam Fellows

Title: “Why symptom-based approaches are not enough: the value of psychiatric diagnoses”


Critics are concerned that psychiatric diagnoses fail to accurately describe patients and therefore should be abandoned. Most patients do not have all symptoms associated with their diagnosis and most patients have symptoms which are not associated with their diagnosis. Knowing someone has a diagnosis seems to convey much less useful information compared to knowing what symptoms someone has. This situation has lead critics of psychiatric diagnosis to claim diagnoses make no contributions to understanding individuals, they are harmful distractions and should be abandoned (e.g. Timini, Gardner & McCabe 2011). Psychiatrists should instead establish what symptoms an individual has rather than give them a diagnosis. In this paper I will employ Ronald Giere’s account of scientific theories to show that those critics are mistaken to see psychiatric diagnosis as making no useful contribution.

Giere describes how scientific theories are abstract generalisations which lack specific detail. For example, Newton’s laws, by themselves, make no claims about the world. Rather, they guide the building of more specific models and these specific models can be used to make claims about the world. He describe scientific theories as “recipes for constructing models” (Giere 1994, p.293). This notion of scientific theories as recipes which guide the building of less abstract models has not yet been applied to psychiatric diagnoses.

Psychiatric diagnoses should be seen as recipes for constructing models of people. I argue they guide the construction of models of people, making contributions to understanding individuals which are absent when simply focusing upon what symptoms are being presented by specific individuals. Firstly, many symptoms can be subtle and difficult to spot. A patient may be unaware of the symptom and psychiatrists cannot practically investigate for every possible symptom. Psychiatric diagnoses can help guide investigation of symptoms. If an individual exhibits a few symptoms of a psychiatric diagnosis then there is reason to investigate for other symptoms of that psychiatric diagnosis. For instance, if an individual exhibits low social skills and low eye contact, both of which are symptoms of autism, then there is reason to investigate for other symptoms of autism. This may help spot subtle symptoms such as rigid thinking or difficulty accommodating to changes. Thus the diagnosis guides investigating for the presence of symptoms. Secondly, patients fluctuate in the symptoms they present over time. The symptoms which are presented to a psychiatrist at time of interview may not cover symptoms previously exhibited or those exhibited in the future. However, knowing the individual has a diagnosis which is associated with a range of symptoms, more than any one diagnosed person actually exhibits, guides awareness towards a range of possible symptoms not present in a diagnosed person at one specific time. The diagnosis guides awareness towards alternative symptoms that may present at other times within diagnosed individuals. Thirdly, symptoms themselves have a level of generality and may manifest in quite different ways. For example, the low social skills of autistic individuals are typically quite different to the low social skills of schizophrenic individuals. Thus knowing the diagnosis of an individual can lead to greater understanding of how specific symptoms manifest. The diagnosis guides building more realistic models of ways individuals manifest symptoms.

By framing psychiatric diagnosis in terms of Giere’s account of scientific theories I have shown how psychiatric diagnosis make a contribution to understanding individuals. Thus critics of psychiatric diagnosis are mistaken to believe psychiatric diagnosis make no contribution and are mistaken to believe they should be abandoned.


Giere, Ronald, N. (1994). The Cognitive Structure of Scientific Theories. Philosophy of Science, 61/2, 276-296.

Timini, Sami., Gardner, Niel. & McCabe, Bain. (2011). The Myth of Autism (Palgrave-McMillian).

Speaker 2: Richard Woods

Title: TBC – presentation around the results of content analysis of screening tools for Broader Autism Phenotype

More sessions to be added after Christmas when my academic timetable is confirmed.