New Directions in Critical Disability Studies – postgraduate symposium

A postgraduate symposium aiming to share exciting new ideas in disability studies, and think critically about what it means to be human.

July 9th. 10am – 4pm

About this Event

This one-day symposium invites postgraduate researchers to engage with some of these questions as they relate to their own research projects. The day offers the exciting possibility of learning with and from one another to think about the different directions that are now being taken within critical disability studies. Each speaker will offer a unique contribution to the day, drawing upon the theoretical and methodological frameworks of their PhD project. The call for papers is intentionally broad in order to provide an open and flexible space for these new directions to be debated and discussed. While broad, presenters are brought together through their interest in both developing, and initiating, new directions in critical disability studies. We hope to meet with postgraduate researchers from a range of institutions and seek to explore the following questions:

What does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be pushed to the peripheries of its borders?

How might we confront these borders and rethink the dominant territory of the ‘normal’ human?

How, as a collective of postgraduate researchers, can we have honest and open conversations about what the human is, isn’t, and could be?

We welcome proposals from postgraduate researchers who position their work within the field of CDS. We are interested in exploring some of the new directions you are taking this field within the unique parameters of your PhD topic. Abstracts should be between 150 and 200 words.

Please send your abstract, and brief bio, to newdirectionscds@gmail.com on or before Wednesday 13th March, 2019. We aim to respond to you by Monday 15th April with our decisions.

The symposium will take place in Workroom 4, on the first floor of 38 Mappin Street, University of Sheffield, S1 4DT. This space has access to accessible toilet facilities, gender-neutral toilets, car-parking, and with level access into the building. The building does not play background music. Lift access is available next to workroom 4.

More info on accessibility has been created by Disabled Go https://www.accessable.co.uk/venues/38-mappin-street

An interactive map of the building is available following this link http://ssid.sheffield.ac.uk/38-mappin-floor-plan/

This is a free event and lunch and light refreshments will be provided.

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with us newdirectionscds@gmail.com

More information can be found on the link below:




Call for a speaker!

We are currently looking for one more speaker for our February 22nd session 10am-12noon at Sheffield Hallam University.

If you are an early career researcher or a Masters/PhD student and would be interested in speaking about any disability related topic please check out this page for access information and this page for presentation guidelines and then contact me at s.r.hannam-swain@shu.ac.uk

We are an informal network of disability scholars who provide researchers with opportunities to present their work in a friendly and encouraging environment.




Welcoming in the New Year with two amazing speakers!

Tuesday, 29th January 2019

Time: 2pm – 4pm.

Place: 12.02.19 Charles Street Building, Sheffield Hallam University. City Campus

This is on the second floor of the Charles Street Building which is just next to Arundel where we held meetings last year.

Speaker 1: Esme Cleall

Title: History as a tool of public engagement: disability, identity and the past


In 2017 I worked with Sheffield Voices, a self-advocacy group of adults with learning disabilities, and Sandra Thomas, a film-maker, to make a short film about the history of disability in Sheffield, where we all live.

The film documented the discussions we had about history: What did we mean when we spoke about the ‘past’? What did it mean to be disabled when our parents and grandparents were young? Could history teach us about the roots of the hate-crime which so many of the group experienced? It also provided an opportunity to discuss some of the challenges members of the group faced today such as cuts to public funding.

These were difficult discussions to have. They involved exploring negative words  that were used in the past to mean someone with a learning disability – ‘idiot’, ‘moron’, ‘imbecile’. And they meant presenting information that made members of the group sad and angry.

In this session I will show the 15-minute film (subtitled) that we produced. I will follow it by a 10-15-minute paper which reflects on the ethics of me, as an academic who does not have a learning disability, in working this group who have consistently been excluded from academia. I also reflect on the extent to which the film was coproduced? And think about what is the role of history and the past in thinking about and engaging in disability activism today?

Speaker 2: Shona Davison

Title: Pros and cons of autistic parenthood

Abstract:There is a dearth of research on autistic parenthood. Parenting increases engagement with services such as healthcare and education, which means that autistic parents are forced to engage with services that do not understand them or their needs. This study uses case studies and thematic analysis. Six autistic parents were interviewed about the pros and cons of being an autistic parent. This resulted in four themes: autistic characteristics, relationships, indirect effects of autism and stress. An important finding was that all participants reported negative relationships with professionals and three participants were fearful of losing their child(ren). One parent was falsely accused of fabricated and induced illness, which led to a lengthy traumatic investigation. The findings are discussed with recommendations for future research.


DRF Session 2

Hi Everyone!

Our second Disability Research Forum is going to be on Thursday 6th Dec, at 11am – 1pm. The session will be held in the Charles Street Building (next to Arundel) again room 12.03.16 – which is on the third floor. Please do get in touch if you have any accessibility needs or questions.

We have two more wonderful speakers:

Speaker 1: Julia Bahner

Title: Sexual citizenship in practice: diverse opportunities for support


Disabled people’s sexuality is a neglected subject in disability services, health care, within the disabled people’s movement, and in society as a whole. Inaccessibility and failure by professionals to recognise disabled people as sexual can lead to unmet needs, misconduct and reproduction of prejudice about asexuality. This paper will explore what ‘sexual citizenship’ means in practice for people with mobility impairments who may need professional support to conduct their sexual activity as desired, i.e. sexual facilitation. Through a cross-national approach the paper demonstrates the variability of how sexual rights are understood and their culturally-specific nature. It also shows how the personal is indeed political: states’ different policy approaches change the outcomes for disabled people in terms of support to explore and express their sexualities. A critical analysis of disability policies as well as sexual health policies reveals how the sexual needs of people with mobility impairments are often ignored. Furthermore, disability organisations’ different approaches to advocating for sexual rights highlights how some of them inadvertently adapt to what is deemed as ‘policy-relevant’ and how sexual rights are often less a priority than other rights – especially in times of austerity. So, is sexuality merely a luxury or is it an inherent part of being human? Do service users have a right to sexual pleasure, and if so, how is this to be catered to in practice, and if not, on what grounds do non-disabled people in power positions define disabled people’s sexual lives?

Speaker 2: Thomas Price

Title: “Officially Described as Mysterious”: New Directions in Demystifying Autism


Autism and communication are almost invariably linked; consequently autism is frequently defined in relation to communication. My research aims to provide an exposition of how our understanding of autism, is limited by our understanding of communication.

My research draws on the works of Roy Harris, in order to expose the underlying communicative assumptions that have been made in previous autism research. Such assumptions include: that verbal communication should take precedent; that the researcher is a social “scientist” and that autistic communication is deficient.

Harris’ work, while considered radical in the field of linguistics, offers a unique opportunity to the linguist who is researching autism. In order to demonstrate this, I outline how the Harrisian epistemology can lead to a more participatory, linguistic approach. Too often linguists impose their own perceptions on autistic communicative behaviour. My proposed methodology traverses this flaw, instead championing the autistic voice and the autistic perspective.

It is my goal to pave the way for linguistics to join the emergent wave of participatory research. Our understanding of autistic communication can only be furthered through a combination of lived experience and research experience.


DRF Session 1

Hello Everyone!

I am please to announce our first DRF session of the academic year. Hope to see you there! Details are as follows:

Wednesday, 14th November.

Time: 11am – 1pm.

Place: 12.02.05 Charles Street Building, Sheffield Hallam University. City Campus

This is on the second floor of the Charles Street Building which is just next to Arundel where we held meetings last year.

Speaker 1: Katharine Terrell

PhD Student Sheffield Hallam University

Title: Disabled children and embodiment


I will be exploring some of the key issues around how we conceptualise children’s embodiment, with a focus on children that are labelled as disabled, having an impairment, or having Special Educational Needs. Firstly, I will consider the meaning of embodiment; the importance of studying embodied experiences; and how bodies interact with, and co-create, space. I will explore some of the ways in which children’s embodiment has been neglected or overlooked in academic work, and consider the ways in which we might be able to study disabled children’s embodiment without returning to pathologising, disempowering accounts of disabled children’s experiences. Such disempowering accounts include adults’ concerns that children’s bodies “develop” in a way that is normative and reflective of expectations that children will become “productive” adults, which is reflected, for example, in the way classroom spaces are designed.

In the second part of this presentation, I will build on this theoretical background to place my PhD project into context and introduce some key emerging themes. I will introduce my methodology, which involved interacting with children aged 5 to 7 in a northern English primary school to understand their embodied experiences and their use of school spaces. As part of this, I will explore some of the theoretical and practical problems of trying to enter children’s worlds as an adult. Then I will take the audience through some of the data—photographs, drawings and field-notes—and discuss what these data might tell us about how children’s bodies act in space, create spaces and resist power dynamics enacted through space.

Speaker 2: Steve Graby

PhD Student University of Leeds

Title: “It would be nice if you didn’t have to jump through hoops”: barriers to the realisation of personal assistance as a means to independent living for disabled people in the UK


The direct employment of personal assistants (PAs) by disabled people has been a part of the landscape of social services in the UK since the 1980s, and was established on a national level by the Community Care (Direct Payments) Act in 1996. It was originally envisaged by the Disabled People’s Movement (DPM) in the UK as an essential component of an emancipatory strategy for achieving ‘independent living’, in which ‘independence’ is reconceptualised as decisional autonomy and self-determination in everyday life. However, the use of a form of waged employment as a tool for liberation presents a potential contradiction with the analysis by founding theorists of the DPM of capitalism and its labour relations as the basis of disabled people’s oppression.

In my doctoral research I conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with current and former PAs and disabled people who employ(ed) PAs, intending to investigate contradictions within and potential alternatives to the direct employment model of personal assistance. However, participants found alternative possibilities hard to discuss because barriers to the implementation of this model have arguably meant that its emancipatory potential has never been fully realised. In this paper I present data from these interviews which reveals the effect of these barriers on the everyday lives of disabled people with personal assistance needs and on the personal assistance relationship. I then discuss suggestions made by PAs and employers for changes in policy and practice that could help to overcome these barriers and fully realise the original vision of personal assistance, and conclude by examining some tensions that may remain even after its realisation.


Autism Dialogue Conference 2018 Tickets, Fri, 14 Dec 2018

Get your ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/autism-dialogue-conference-2018-tickets-48731301635

This full day conference and workshop is a celebration and consolidation of eighteen months practice in this new field, with around fifty participants, in various settings.

Tickets are just £25 for the full day and all students can get a 20% discount using the code STUDENT20 at checkout.

The conference is an invitations to join us in celebrating the launch in Sep 2017 and continuing work, as well as learn about the benefits for autistic people and the autism community and hear about the launch of a national network.  You will hear talks from numerous autistic delegates, (some of whom have been participating for over a year), researchers, therapists and a keynote from co-founder of the Academy of Professional Dialogue, Jane Ball.  You can take part in interactive sessions and network with key professionals from all areas.

We had a successful introductory dialogue session SHARP members and others in July and it was unanimously felt the methodology would be very useful for Autism researchers, especially undertaking PhD’s.   Whilst I still have two years to go on my MA Autism, I have been forming a research proposal for my own PhD with Autism Dialogue at the centre, partly inspired by the new Critical Arts in Health group at SHU’s Lab4Living and Design4Health.

Next week my paper ‘Autism Dialogue’ is being published and used to inform a session at the inaugural International Conference of Professional Dialogue.  This is the first time the Bohm Dialogue method has been applied in the field of Autism.  I am also presenting a poster at Scottish Autism in November.

I hope you will support me in making the Sheffield conference a success by coming along and inviting colleagues and friends.

Many thanks and hope to see you there.

Best wishes,

Jonny Drury
Communicating Autism through Participatory Dialogue

Get your ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/autism-dialogue-conference-2018-tickets-48731301635



Call For Presenters!

Hello everyone!

I hope the new academic year is getting off to a good start! This post is to let you know about our plans for the Disability Research Forum seminar series for the 18/19 academic year.

This year, due to our workloads, we have set dates that the forum will take place on. If you would like to present please pick a date from the list below and drop me an email s.r.hannam-swain@shu.ac.uk to arrange. Sessions will be announced as usual on the blog, including location and time.

Available dates:

October 19th

November 14th

December 6th

January 29th

February 22nd

March 25th

April 12th

May 14th


June’s Disability Research Forum session

Our next Disability Reading Group and Disability Research Forum session will take place at 5th June in Arundel 10310. The reading group is 12-1pm. We are looking at:

Hughes, B. (2015). Disabled people as counterfeit citizens: the politics of resentment past and present. Disability and Society. 30(7). 991-1004. doi: 10.1080/09687599.2015.1066664

The DRF session will take place in the same room at 1.30-3.30pm

Our first speaker is Leah Burch from Liverpool Hope University:

‘All parasites should perish’: Blurring the boundaries of hate speech and banter

In a bid to justify extensive cuts to welfare support, disability has been positioned as a drain on so-called ‘hardworking taxpayers.’ A climate of financial instability has nurtured a culture of hostility towards recipients of welfare support and disabled people. This paper brings together the findings of two research projects, both exploring disablist hate speech within the context of austerity. First, I present some examples of online disablist hate speech, and consider the way in which these create a metanarrative of disability as dependent and unworthy. Following this, I draw upon some experiences of disablist hate speech, as narrated by disabled people. I consider the complexity of these experiences, both in terms of the harms that they present, as well as the everyday means of resistance that challenge these everyday expressions of disablism. I also offer some methodological reflections on the use of storytelling within disability research.

Our second speaker is Prof Katherine Runswick-Cole from the University of Sheffield

Storying Inclusion: digital stories of enacting inclusive education

In this presentation, I will share some stories collected as part of a research project: Enacting Critical Disability Communities in Education. This is a two-year international Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded multimedia storytelling project, located in Toronto, Canada, focused on  inclusion in schools. The project explores how multimedia storytelling might enhance inclusion by making spaces for a proliferation of representations of autism –  beyond the dominant biomedical model of autism as a deficit in need of remedy. Enacting is a collaboration between Patty Douglas, PI, Brandon University, Carla Rice, from the University of Guelph and Revision: The Centre for Social Justice and Art, and me. Together with other researcher-collaborators, people who identify as autistic, family members and artist-facilitators  created 17 short multimedia films and a documentary about autism and inclusion.

Katherine Runswick-Cole is Professor in Education in The School of Education at the University of Sheffield. She locates her work in the field of critical disability studies.  Recent publications include: Re-thinking autism: disability, identity and equality (Ed with Mallett and Timimi, 2016, Jessica Kinglsey) and The Palgrave Handbook of Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies (Ed with Curran and Liddiard, 2017, Palgrave).


DRF session on the 8th of May focused on autism

On the 8th of May in Arundel 10212A, we will have a Disability Reading Group and Disability Research Forum session. This DRF session will contain two separate presentations with a focus on enabling research on and with autistic people. From 12:30pm to 1:30pm, we will discuss the following article:

Milton, D. E. (2014). Autistic expertise: a critical reflection on the production of knowledge in autism studies. Autism18(7), 794-802.

The DRF session takes place in the same room from 2pm to 4pm and will consist of contributions from two researchers who are involved in inclusive autism research. The first speaker is Marianthi Kourti from Birmingham University.

Autistic autism professionals: Facing the stigma and managing the emotional labour

Autistic individuals often have very little power in the creation of autism spaces. They are seen as the service users whose needs are assessed and serviced by non-autistic individuals. Autistic professionals have tried to challenge that narrative in recent years, trying to include the autistic voice in the decision-making process both as academics and as professionals working with autistic individuals. This paper focuses on the unique identity of being an autistic autism professional and being in the intersection of two identities often considered incompatible with each other.

First of all, being an autistic autism professional comes with significant emotional labour. Employers often don’t seem ready or able to recognise the needs of an autistic employee, even if they provide extensive training for working with autistic service users. Presenting the autistic individual as only being the one in need ignores the needs of an autistic professional. Autistic professionals are faced with dealing with the ableist views of their non-autistic co-workers and the responsibility to address them. They are often treated in a tokenistic way by their organisation, a position which is very difficult to challenge for many reasons.

As members of the autistic community, autistic professionals are faced with the challenges autistic individuals face during and after work. They may have friends and loved ones who are frequently in crisis and face many barriers and, once in a position of a relative power, they feel a burden of responsibility for creating visibility and employment opportunities for their community, whose foundations as a community have been created by many hours of unpaid labour by many of its members. Simultaneously, they have to keep challenging institutions and organisations who may employ them about their inaccessibility to the autistic community as a whole.

Finally, autistic autism professionals deal with others’ internalised ableism, whilst constantly facing and challenging the damaging mainstream autism discourse and managing the nuances of stigmatisation. For all the above reasons, I think it’s important to talk about the contested identity of the autistic autism professional in a meaningful, intersectional way.

Our second speaker is Daniel Bendelman from the University of Kent.

Practice as Research within Critical Autism Studies from an artist/researchers perspective

Practice as Research (PaR), is an emerging academic field of enquiry which is concerned with epistemological enquiry situated within the practice of an array of art forms. This can range from dance, to performance and live art aesthetics. This offers artist researchers the opportunity to incorporate their own artistic practice as a field of academic research and situated place of enquiry.

In my presentation I will present some of my past pieces of PaR as an autistic researcher, concerned with the interrogation of the way the media produces a narrative of autism often rooted within stereotypes. These serve to reinforce ignorance surrounding the lived-in experience of autism.

I will speak about two past pieces of my work, ‘Fragments’ which was a PaR installation exploring the conflict between the phenomenological, semi-autobiographical experience of the ‘self’, when in opposition to mediated portrayals of autism. I will explain my working process and research behind the piece, and public impact. My second PaR piece I will speak about will be ‘We Were Here…’, this piece was loosely based on Frank Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, and was a post-dramatic exploration of the impact that the removal of Aspergers Syndrome from the DSM-5 had on my own experience as someone who was diagnosed with A.S from a young age and now strongly identifies with its history and culture.

After this I will briefly speak about the thinkers who most influence my work, and how I will be incorporating their discourses throughout my practice in my PaR PhD to offer ways of generating new knowledge within the field of both Critical Autism Studies and Performance studies.

Formally trained at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Daniel Bendelman is due to start his practice as research PhD at The University of Kent. Daniel is an installation artist, working around the topic of media representations of autism in the media and his research is concerned with the problematics that such representations work to produce within the public sphere, applying live art methodologies to produce new ways of challenging these discourses through the field of Critical Autism Studies and Performance Studies.