Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research Goes Open Access!

Simo Vehmas, President of NNDR,

Fom the beginning of 2018, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research (SJDR) will be published with an Open access license by Stockholm University Press. This means that all the material in the journal can be downloaded for free and shared with colleagues without restrictions. The whole previous archive of SJDR with its 18 volumes will be made available free of charge as well. The entire journal content will thus become available to anyone with an access to internet. As the NNDR board and the Editors are already working hard with the transition to a new publisher, we’d like to announce the change now to open up for comments.

The journal will be a truly open publication because we have chosen the strategy to not charge the authors of publishing their material in SJDR. All the costs will be covered by NNDR. And now you’re thinking: there’s a catch, isn’t there? Yes, there is. It’s called Nordic social democracy. Continue reading

“I’m proud to be intellectually disabled, but I’d still like to learn how to read”

Professori Simo Vehmas 1.8.2013Simo Vehmas, Professor of Disability Studies, University of Helsinki, President of NNDR,,

I read recently a fascinating paper about the self-advocacy of young people with intellectual disability in Sweden by Magnus Tideman and Ove Svensson (Tideman & Svensson 2015). The findings of their study touch upon various contentious issues in disability studies such as the meaning of autonomy and independence, identity politics, and whether justice for disabled people is mainly a matter of distribution of goods or recognition of their equal worth.

Respect for self-determination and social justice seem to go hand in hand despite the fact that some impairments do pose a challenge for reconciling these two. What Tideman’s and Svensson’s paper highlights so well is the difficulty of “finding the right balance between giving an individual responsibility and independence and at the same time providing him or her with an adequate amount of help and support” (Tideman & Svensson 2015, 6). Providing disabled people with equal opportunities for autonomy and independence has always been important to disability movement despite the contested and ambiguous nature of the concept “autonomy”. The importance of disability identity is also contentious: some think that identification on the basis of impairment and discrimination to a disabled collective results in labeling and further discrimination rather than to empowerment and justice (e.g. Shakespeare 2006, ch. 5). Continue reading

Making Space: Exploring Intimate Citizenship in the lives of people labeled with learning disabilities

Jodie Bradley*, Vicky Farnsworth*, Annie Ferguson*, Hayley Wilcock*, Dan Goodley**, Kirsty Liddiard** and Katherine Runswick-Cole***

* Speak Up Self-Advocacy
** The University of Sheffield
*** Manchester Metropolitan University

In September 2015, we travelled to Toronto, Canada to take part in a workshop exploring intimate citizenship in the lives of people labeled with learning disabilities. Continue reading

Ad hominem is a fallacy, but not in disability studies?

simo-vehmas_mediumSimo Vehmas, Professor of Disability Studies, University of Helsinki, President of NNDR,,

I have been often asked why as a nondisabled person I’m interested in disability. Some ask the question because they assume that interest in disability requires a personal experience of impairment, and some because they doubt the credibility of an academic who lacks the personal experience of disablement. Whatever the reasons are, my answer lately to the question has been: “What makes you think that I’m not disabled?”

Obviously, it is because I’m socially privileged, but it is also because I don’t have a visible impairment. I do, however, have tinnitus, sleeping apnea and an unspecified arthritis of some sort. They’re all impairments, aren’t they? You may, however, think that these conditions are so minor that they’re not proper impairments and, as a result, my disability credibility is null. You might not say this to me in public because it would be politically incorrect, but, in my experience, most people (irrespective of their disability identity) do think along these lines. Continue reading

Thinking about the human; thinking about disability


Katherine Runswick-Cole (Manchester Metropolitan University) & Dan Goodley (University of Sheffield) (,

In this post, we think about what it means to be human.   We do so as part of a wider on-going research project Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and Civil Society (Economic and Social Research Council (ES/K004883/1)[1]).  The project (June, 2013 –June, 2015) asks how are disabled people with learning disabilities[2] faring in contemporary society in England?

It might seem that there is a bit of a leap from a project on ‘Big Society’ to thinking about what it means to be human, but we think that understanding what it means to be human matters if we want to understand what is happening in the lives of disabled people with learning disabilities in Big Society. Sometimes, we’ve been criticized by those who think that asking things like “what does it means to be human?” is a waste of time, that we are simply doing theory for theory’s sake.  Of course, we don’t agree with this view, indeed we would argue that our interest in thinking about the human is political; it is based on our personal commitment to a politics of disability and because of our own positions as family, friends and allies to people with the label of learning disability. Continue reading


McConnellDavid McConnell, PhD, Professor and Director, Family and Disability Studies Initiative, University of Alberta,

Researchers have focused a great deal of attention on family adjustment and adaptation to children with disabilities. The traditional and still dominant approach to research in this field starts out with the assumption that having a child with disabilities is a ‘disturbance’ or ‘perturbation’, and then focuses on stress and coping processes, and what are usually presumed to be ‘outcomes’ for other family members. Many studies have investigated stress and psychopathology among mothers [and to a far lesser extent, fathers and siblings] of children with disabilities, the stress-buffering role of social support, and the utility of various coping strategies. This research has had a number of positive impacts. It has, for instance, helped justify services such as early intervention, in-home help, psycho-educational programs for parents and respite care. Continue reading

No entry: exploring disability and migration

Dr Nicola Burns, Researcher at Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, UK

Over the past two years I have been working on an EU funded project into migration and health, specifically focusing on cross-cultural communication in primary care consultations (see At first glance, a long way away from my research interests in disability studies and risk. Working on this project has however provided me with an opportunity to consider the intersection of disability and migration. Disabled people and migrants represent significant minorities throughout the globe (IOM, 2012; WHO, 2011).

Migration is a global phenomenon with an estimated 216 million migrants across the world, with a third residing in WHO European Region. It is unknown how many migrants are disabled, but taking recent estimates on prevalence of disability, it is not unreasonable to assume that between 10-15% of migrants are disabled. The intersection of disability and migration is complex and to an extent unknown. Both designations hide extremely diverse and heterogeneous populations with a range of capabilities and possibilities.  Both groups face structural and systemic barriers to asserting and realising their rights to participate in society. While disabled people have seen an increasing recognition of their rights to participate fully in society; migrants face increasing restrictions in this regard. A key aspect for both groups is the issue of citizenship.  Arguably, while disabled people have seen a formal recognition of their rights to participate fully in society in some countries; migrants face increasing restrictions in this regard. Both face challenges in their ability to realise citizenship rights, however defined. At the international level, a language of rights is utilised for both groups, this is dependent upon state interpretation and practices. Continue reading

The Punk Syndrome

Minna Pietikäinen, M.Scs.

Over the last few years, people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and their rights have gained increasing attention in Finnish media. For example, the leading Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has in some editorials raised the issue of deficiencies in the living arrangements of people with ID.

Despite more recent de-institutionalization, Finland still has the highest proportion of institutionalized people in Scandinavia (Pelto-Huikko, Kaakinen & Ohtonen, 2008). Medical knowledge may often be taken for granted when describing people with ID. As Seppälä (2010) states, until the 1980s people with intellectual disabilities were studied within institutions and research about them today may still contain bias caused by diagnostic overshadowing. When a person is diagnosed as disabled, these expectancies may affect the observations that are subsequently made. In this context, the position of a patient in an institution is offered to the intellectually disabled person, and other kinds of subjectivities are denied. Continue reading

‘Ought’ and ‘is’: about the importance of normativity to disability studies[i]

simo-vehmas_mediumIt seems safe to suggest that the ethos of welfare state has been the normative foundation of Nordic disability research. But having said that, it seems equally safe to suggest that disability scholars haven’t engaged properly with the normative issues to do with disability; the ethical and political issues that, after all, have a great significance on people’s well-being. Researchers have primarily aimed at describing neutrally how things are, while normative issues having to do with how things ought to be, have been left to political activists, philosophers and other possibly suspicious characters.

We have valued, correctly I believe, the autonomy of academic research. In the spirit of Humboldtian tradition, we have emphasized the freedom to choose questions and methodology to carry out research, and to publish their results even if they were politically, ethically and emotionally sensitive or even uncomfortable. Continue reading

Bedding Out: a new performance with virtual participation

Bedding Out: a new performance with virtual participation

Bedding In Bedding Out is a response to the UK’s current welfare benefits overhaul, which threatens many disabled people with poverty. It has been associated with the deaths of at least 32 people each week found ‘fit for work’[i] and with a propagandist campaign that has seen disability hate crime leap by 50%[ii].

For 48 hours round-the-clock, in an art gallery, I will be taking to my bed, exhibited behind a red rope barrier. Continue reading