DRF News

CFP: Disability and Impairment: a Technological Fix? (Nov. 2015: UK)

Event Title: Disability and Impairment: a Technological Fix?

Date: 27th November 2015

Location: London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London, EC1R 0HB

Part of Disability History Month and supported by the King’s Fund, this conference will feature a range of speakers including community groups, heritage organisations and academics.


Papers are invited from across the heritage, cultural, academic and grassroots communities. Our aim is to generate a dialogue between these groups through a programme of presentations and shorts talks discussing the theme of technological change and the portrayal of disability then and now.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Assistive technology– the changing ways in which technology has been seen to act as an equaliser and a ‘fix’ for disability
  • Medical technology– the ways in which new medical technology has affected concepts of what is “normal”
  • A revolution?– comparisons of the portrayal of disability in the information age with agricultural and industrial societies.

We invite short abstracts of between 50 and 200 words for informal 10 minute presentations that share work-in- progress or provide an introduction to new projects or research that address these themes.  We also invite abstracts for 20 minute papers or presentations exploring them themes in more detail.

This conference is being delivered on a not for profit basis and the organisers are unable to cover speakers costs except in cases where speakers would otherwise be prevented from attending for financial reasons.

Abstract deadline: 1 October 2015

Abstracts to: tom.furber@cityoflondon.gov,uk

DRF News

Invitation of Participation in Research Project: Cyber Campuses

[Posted on behalf of Louis Nisiotis: louis.nisiotis@student.shu.ac.uk]

My name is Louis Nisiotis and I am a doctoral student at Sheffield Hallam University.  I am conducting an experimental study as part of my PhD degree and I would like to invite you to participate.

My research aims to analyse the flexibility of cyber campuses to support learning and overcome barriers that restrict students from accessing and participating in the University.

There are many reasons why some students cannot regularly attend university, varying from temporary illnesses to chronic medical conditions, army obligations, caring commitments, etc. that restrict their travel from, to and around the educational institution. Attendance and participation in learning is an invaluable experience where the students not only obtain important information but also develop their understanding and skills by interacting with peers and tutors. To support these students, institutions are adopting E-Learning technologies to allow them to access education at a distance. One of these technologies is the use of virtual worlds in the form of cyber campuses.

Cyber campuses are specially designed meeting points that operate on Multi-User Virtual Environments (like Second Life), where users can gather virtually and exchange learning materials, communicate and collaborate in a state of the art 3D environment over the Internet.

For the needs of my research, I have designed a cyber campus prototype and I am investigating its flexibility to support students learning and overcome barriers of access and participation to the university.  To perform this investigation, I am conducting a series of experimental studies that requires the participation of current or recent students.

I invite members of the DRF who, for any reason might face obstacles that restrict their attendance and participation to the university, to participate in two experimental sessions that will be held in the virtual world.

During this unique experience, you will have the opportunity to immerse in the virtual world, virtually meet and interact with other members in real time and attend a learning scenario simulation from the comforts of your own environment.

The sessions are scheduled as follows: (dates and times of the sessions will be mutually agreed.)

Session 1: Introduction, orientation and virtual lecture. In this session, you will learn how to navigate, communicate and interact with other users and objects in the virtual world. After that, a virtual lecture based on the use of virtual worlds in education will take place. Following the lecture, you will undertake a virtual quiz and then participate in a group activity.

Session 2: Focus Group discussion. This session will take place on a different date. In this session, we shall virtually gather together in a friendly focus group and discuss: What are the barriers that make your access and participation to the university difficult? And how the use of the virtual worlds can overcome some of the barriers that restrict you from attending the university.

To participate in this experiment, you will have to install specific viewer software on your computer, login and interact in the virtual world with other participants using a virtual character (Avatar). During this study, you will be asked to complete two surveys and participate in a virtual focus group.

I will be happy to answer any questions you have about the study.  Thank you for your consideration.

If you would like to participate, please email me directly expressing your interest so I can provide you with more information and materials.

If you are interested to participate, I encourage you to join my forum for discussion http://learninvw.com/forum

With kind regards, Louis Nisiotis

Research Student – Sheffield Hallam University

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.

DRF News, Events and Conferences

Seminar Announced on ‘Investigating Socio-Technical Experiences of Disability in Social Media’ (8th March 2011)

The following event has been added to the Other Events section.

Event: Centre for Culture & Disability Studies (CCDS) Research Forum *FREE!*

Date: 8th March 2011 ~ 4pm – 6pm

Venue: WAREE036 (Powys Lecture Theatre), Liverpool Hope University, UK. 

  • ‘Disability 2.0: Investigating Socio-Technical Experiences of Disability in Social Media’ ~ Sarah Lewthwaite (Learning Sciences Research Institute, School of Education, University of Nottingham, UK)

Abstract: For many young people, social networks are an essential part of the student experience. Sarah Lewthwaite 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 university 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. Sarah gives 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. She introduces the notion of ‘bricolage’ as a user-friendly multi-perspective methodology and research approach that has enabled her 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. It will be an interactive session aimed at researchers and students, but prior knowledge of the methods and technologies presented is not necessary. Following on from an orientation in social media research for disability studies, Sarah will also talk about the findings of her research, which consider the ways in which social technologies reposition disabled people within taxonomies of identity, enabling some and dis-abling others.

For further information from the organisers, please contact: Dr. Ria Cheyne: cheyner@hope.ac.uk

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.