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