First UCL Interdisciplinary Conference on Disability
Disability between academic and research practice: breaking barriers towards a just and equal world - 9th May 2018
Disability is an inherently cross-disciplinary issue, which should be genuinely researched through a 360-degree viewpoint, embracing its social, political, clinical and psychological origins, as well as the technical-contextual sphere connected to disabled people’s everyday life experience.
The First UCL Interdisciplinary Conference on Disability aims to bring together the most cutting-edge research on disability across departments and research centres, framing its evolving nature within the present situation and supplying a wide spectrum of academic perspectives with the purpose of favouring the effective, just and equal participation of disabled people in society. For this reason, the Conference intends to overcome the approach to disability as a problem to be solved, but as a way of innovating and promoting change in society, benefiting the community of disability researchers, disabled and non-disabled people by developing a more all-encompassing approach aimed at investigating disability as a multi-faceted phenomenon.
Date/time: 9th May 2018, 09:30-17:30
Location: Room G12 - The Bartlett School of Architecture
UCL Faculty of the Built Environment
22 Gordon Street
Dr Catherine Holloway, UCL Interaction Centre and Global Disability Innovation Hub
Dr Diane Carr, UCL Knowledge Lab at the Institute of Education
Accessibility and Transformative Technology
Chair: Rafie Cecilia
This presentation reports on an Arts Council England (ACE) funded project that brought disabled artists into architectural education, to prototype new ways of working together around the design of built space. Rather than treating disability as a technical problem to be solved through design guidance, this project explored what happens when we start from difference: when both disability and ability are understood as complex, ambiguous and relational; where engaging with the richness of biodiversity and neuro-divergence can enhance design; and as a means of critically and creatively unravelling ‘what is normal’ about everyday social and spatial practices. We reflect on what worked and what was less successful, and discuss possible future steps for building on disabled artists’ experience and creative talents to ‘do inclusion differently’ in architectural education.
Struggles for Social Access: Young People with Physical Disabilities in Online Relationships
To broaden conversations on digital media access, this paper proses the concept of ‘social access’, to shed light on how young people with physical disabilities attempt to gain acceptance in social interactions as well as form and maintain relationships on social networking sites. Drawing on an ethnographic study of young people with physical disabilities use of the internet in a special school, this paper argues that young people with physical disabilities struggle to gain acceptance in social interactions when presenting discrediting visuals of their bodily stigma, and when deviating from norms practiced in visual cultures on digital media environments. The issues are illustrated by three case studies. The case studies tease out the complex ways in which teenage ‘lookism’, normative behaviour, exclusion and rejection are mediated by disability and digital media.
Design opportunities for AAC and children with severe speech and physical impairments
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies can support children with severe speech and physical impairments (SSPI) to express themselves. Yet, these seemingly ‘enabling’ technologies are often abandoned by this target group, suggesting a need to understand how they are used in communication. Little research has considered the interaction between people, interaction design and the material dimension of AAC. To address this, we report on a qualitative video study that examines the situated communication of five children using AAC in a special school. Our findings offer a new perspective on reconceptualising AAC design and use revealing four areas for future design: incorporating an embodied view of communication, designing to emphasise children’s competence and agency, regulating the presence, prominence and value of AAC, and supporting a wider range of communicative functions that help address children’s needs.
Human Health and Wellbeing
Chair: Dr Catalin Brylla
Challenging intellectual disability stigma at multiple levels
Promoting positive attitudes towards people with intellectual disabilities and challenging stigma are vital to ensuring equal rights, empowerment, self-determination and inclusion advance in all parts of society. This talk will provide a multi-level model of interventions designed to tackle stigma experienced by children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Examples from UCL research will be shared to illustrate what efforts to tackle stigma at different levels may look like. Illustrative examples will include a psychosocial group intervention for adults with intellectual disabilities designed to increase stigma resistance, work jointly conducted in schools with Mencap to promote more accepting attitudes towards peers with intellectual disabilities, and a film based digital intervention designed to increase awareness of intellectual disability and challenge stigma in African countries.
The Way I See It
The General Medical Council (GMC) states that its guidance on medical education about disability is informed by the social model, that is, ‘the problem of disability lies with society, not with the disabled person’, as opposed to the medical model where ‘the impairment is seen as the problem’ However, there is still a paucity of opportunity within medical training to learn about the wider psycho-social aspects of disability, and in particular, visual impairment. This leads to deficiencies in health-care provision and support - recently highlighted by a focus group of visually impaired patients with age-related macular degeneration.
Higher levels of autistic traits associated with lower wellbeing in performing arts professionals and students
This study sought for the first time to identify the extent to which autistic people, or those with high levels of traits, are pursuing careers in the performing arts. It also sought to determine the nature of the relationship between individuals’ autistic traits and their reported wellbeing, including perceived self-efficacy (during training and in the workplace), quality of life, mental health and perceived level of support required. An online questionnaire was used to address these aims. 1679 respondents took part: 1403 performing arts professionals and 276 performing arts students. It was found that higher levels of autistic traits were significantly associated with lower levels of quality of life, lower levels of self-efficacy and greater severity of mental health conditions. Participants with high levels of autistic traits more frequently reported that would like support for their education or career than those with low autistic traits.
Inclusion, Equality and Social Justice
Chair: Sara Joiko
Disability and the Normative Trajectory of Academic Careers
This presentation is based on autoethnography and (Critical Discourse) analysis of job specifications for posts, and interviews in Sociology over a 10-year period. It will also draw on material e.g. policy) closely related to the academic community over the last few years. Exploring assumptions made of disability, impairment, age, gender, achievement, and notions of the ‘ideal candidate’, the paper will examine the expectations made of academics in sociology and explore some of the implications of a ‘non-disabled’ academic ‘gaze’ for the shaping of the academic community. It will highlight potential barriers to access for disabled sociologists and raise questions about the implications for academic practice and output and the place of disabled people and Disability Studies within it.
Schooling in Austere Times: Young People with Dwarfism Reflecting on Their Secondary Education
While there is evidence of the discrimination that disabled students deal with throughout their schooling in the United Kingdom, especially during the time of Austerity (see the latest reports from the Equality and Human Rights Commission), the actual experience of such discrimination is not really heard. Moreover, although there is some research with people with dwarfism reflecting on the educational experiences (Shakespeare et al., 2007), this has exclusively included retrospective accounts.
This paper engages with the stories of 4 young people (11-25 years old) with dwarfism reflecting on their experiences of secondary schooling through multi-modal narratives. These stories explore discourses of normality/difference, dependence/independence and inclusive/exclusive practices in schools and how these are negotiated by these young people. These narratives were collected during 2017-2018 with the use of various methods (focus group narrative interviews, Skype interview, blog stories).
Exploring Inclusive Education Policies and Practices through Dis/ability Critical Race Theory Framework
Based on a research project sponsored by the Fulbright-Schuman Commission of Belgium and Luxemburg, the paper investigates how the Dis/ability Critical Race Theory (DisCrit) in education framework (Connor, Ferri & Annamma, 2013; 2016) can inform inclusive and multicultural education policies and practices for communities of historically marginalised students, within Lawrence Public Schools, the Douglas County, the State of Kansas, and the U.S. in general. The paper presents the results of a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (Fairclough, 2010) of inclusive policies at district, state and national levels, as well as data collected through a qualitative pilot study, exploring policy-makers’, scholars’, educators’, school practitioners’ and principals’ views on the benefits of applying DisCrit to existing school policies and practices. Both CDA and the qualitative pilot study shed light on how existing educational policies and practices are developed and informed by DisCrit, and by what means they are implemented throughout the sector, paying particular attention to the positive and critical aspects that emerge. The ultimate goal is to highlight how DisCrit can reduce forms of macro- and micro- educational exclusions of students located at the interstices of multiple differences, namely race, gender, dis/ability, migratory status, among others.
Disability beyond policy: disability dispositif in higher education
In this world of fleeting post-truths, how can policies still promote equality in educational opportunity and address diversity in higher education? If, on the one hand, disabled students’ rights are upheld through international documents such as Education Transforms Lives (UNESCO, 2017) and the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disability (UN, 2006); on the other hand, on a state government level, neoliberal positions are undermining disability services and financial provisions in academic settings.
Framed within studies on governmentality (Foucault, 2006), Critical Disability Studies (Campbell, 2009; Tremain, 2001) and policy sociology in education (Ball, 2013; Ball et al., 2012), my research project seeks to find alternative solutions to this grim picture of disability and higher education. Taking an ontological stance on disability, I operationalize what I called disability dispositif, a heterogeneous combination of discourses, subjectivities, policies and practices, institutions, feelings and behaviours, whereby power relations actively produce disability and disabled students in the everyday academic routine. Using data from an ethnographic research I carried out in an Italian higher education milieu, here I present the disability dispositif as an innovative analytical tool to critically rewrite education policy work towards more socially just approaches to human diversity and more egalitarian higher education trajectories.
About the Conference
The project of organising the First Interdisciplinary Conference on Disability aroused from the idea of creating a space dedicated to the interdisciplinary character of disability at UCL. Funded by the UCL Grand Challenges Small Doctoral Grants, our intention is to contribute to the UCL Grand Challenges’ aim of creating an interdisciplinary community of researchers on disability issues, in order to foster and enhance UCL’s intra-departmental research and network. Our project seeks to build a stronger connection between staff and doctoral students from different disciplines, departments, and research centres, to develop and support an interdisciplinary approach to disability, favouring potential future collaborations.
This conference will gather for the very first time in UCL high-quality academic research on interdisciplinary approaches to disability. The aim is to open the path to the development of cross-disciplinary and cross-cutting tools to investigate disability, and the wide range of perspectives being presented at the event will feed into an important deal of research impact.
Francesca Peruzzo is the Conference Project Leader and PhD candidate at the UCL Institute of Education in the Department of Education, Practice and Society. Her interests lie in sociological approaches to disability policies and practices in higher education. Her doctoral research investigates the effects of exclusionary processes on disabled students’ subjectivities, and their implications for inclusive practices and equality of opportunities in academic contexts.
A former disabled student assistant and UCL Student Disability Ambassador, she collaborated with the UCL Student Disability Service to inform their policies and practices, and with UCL ChangeMakers to voice disabled students through a panel of discussion.
Rafie Cecilia is the Conference Project Developer and a PhD candidate at UCL Institute of Archaeology. Her research examines the impact of technology on the experience of blind and partially sighted visitors in museums. Rafie looks at technology as empowerment tool for disabled people. Additionally, she has six years of experience working and volunteering in the assistance of blind and partially sighted visitors in museums and galleries. For her research, she collaborates with the British Museum, the Wallace Collection, the Museum of London, and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.