Disability Researching

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Theo Blackmore, who works as the Strategic Liaison Manager for Disability Cornwall. Blackmore did his PhD with Exeter University, entitled “Half my friends don’t even see me as disabled: What can field, capital and habitus reveal about disability, inclusion and exclusion?” He is interested in the changing nature of feelings of inclusion, exclusion and disability for people with impairments.

""Disability Cornwall is user-led, disabled people’s organisation based in the UK. We’ve been working for 17 years providing information and advice, a magazine, peer support, and other services.

As part of my work I helped create the Cornwall Disability Research Network (CDRN). This network brings together grass roots disability organisations to understand, engage with, and design/conduct, disability research activity.

Through the CDRN conferences, we have heard the experiences of disabled people from other countries (e.g. Nigeria, Russia), and from other regions of the UK. We have also heard from local, regional and national disabled people’s organisations about their experiences.

The activities of CDRN involve finding disabled people with innovative research ideas, andworking with them to design a research question, an appropriate methodology, and then conduct and report the results.

Not being a university or research institute – we are a small disability organization – it is very difficult to attract funding .

Locating this research in our organisation, rather than in a university/academia, was a choice because we wanted our research NOT to only contribute to an academic discourse. Our aim is to produce research that can help with the day-to-day needs of disabled people, and of the organisations working with and for them. It’d be great if it could serve an academic purpose as well, but this is not the primary driver.

We are locating our research at the individual level, with the disabled person designing and conducting the research, rather than an academic institution. This highlights a friction inherent in funding bodies looking to create “impact” through strategies such as participatory research but adhering to a more conventional academically minded funding mechanism. We want to design and deliver research that is primarily useful to disabled people and the organisations working with them.

Our ultimate aim is to roll out a national research programme, located outside academia, drawing together local, regional or national user led disabled people’s organisations across the UK interested in collaboration.

For further information, please contact Theo Blackmore at theo@disabilitycornwall.org.uk