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Reimagining disability: Ground-breaking new research

13 August 2014

Reimagining disability: Ground-breaking new research

University of Waikato PhD candidate Ingrid Jones is conducting ground-breaking new research into changing the way society thinks about disability. Her research, entitled “Reimagining disability: Towards learning disability pride” aims to explore the concepts of disability pride and ableism with a group of learning (intellectually) disabled people.

“Having a disability is largely viewed as having a problem, when it shouldn’t be,” she says. “It’s just a part of the diversity of humanity. The reason we have disability oppression is because society views disability as a problem. Being “able” is seen as the norm, when society is more diverse than that.”

The words “learning disability” are used in the research instead of the more commonly-used “intellectual disability”, as this is the term disabled persons’ organisation People First has chosen as a label for itself. Ingrid believes it is vital that society respects the labels that marginalised groups choose for themselves.

Ingrid will be working with learning-disabled people as they develop a different way of looking at learning disability. She’ll be using a technique called Participatory Action Research, PAR, an approach to research that involves participants having an active, participatory role in the project.

At the beginning of next year, Ingrid will start work with a group of about eight learning-disabled people and a learning-disabled co-facilitator through a series of eight hui.

“People who aren’t disabled are going to get it wrong for disabled people because we approach it from a position of imagining what it would be like to be disabled, and having a fear of that. I believe the answers need to come from disabled people, but first they need to have a strong sense of pride in who they are and it needs to be because of who they are, not in spite of who they are.”

As part of her research, Ingrid will be investigating the language around learning disability. She believes that society only has negative ways of thinking and talking about disability.

“There’s been a big change in theory in the lives of disabled people, in particular those with learning disabilities. Often they live in poverty, are disconnected, and have little control over their lives so I’m saying it’s the way that we are thinking about the ‘problem’ of disability that needs to change, and this is why I’m conducting participatory research. The answers need to come from people with learning disabilities themselves.”


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