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

Disabled children, inclusion, and physical education in Sweden

Kim Wickman, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Education, Umeå University, Sweden

Is Swedish education inclusive and does it comprise inclusive teaching? Are schools able to handle normal variations of differences among children and young people in the subject of physical education and health? Is there any clear boundary between what are regarded as normal variations and what is perceived and understood as so divergent that there is a need for special measures? Continue reading