Exploring the Horizon of ‘New Geographies of Disability’ at a Mini Conference

New Geographies of Disability

The mini conference, organised by Dr Ed Hall, examined from various perspectives the contributions that the discipline of geography makes to the socio-spatial understanding of disability. 

Dr. Louise Holt, Loughborough University, explored the complex interconnectedness of various levels and dimensions of social exclusion of children with socio-emotional differences (also labelled as Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties BESD). She discussed how social capital ‘traverses’ various social spaces (home, school, leisure), the importance of social relationships and the challenges associated with compound social exclusion experiences.  

Jayne Sellick, Durham University, examined the notion of ‘becoming well‘ as opposed to ‘being well’. In her presentation, she questioned the linear notion of recovery and reflected – drawing on participatory research with a diverse group of people living with functionally limiting conditions – on the temporal, contextual and relational nature of recovery.

Ed Hall reported on initial findings of a three-part workshop series , funded by the ESRC on ‘Rethinking learning disabilities: Context, voices, policies’. The workshops brought together people with learning disabilities, academics, health and social care practitioners, and policymakers. Three themes emerged from the discussions across the three events: (1) The meaning of learning disability; (2) Sameness and difference; and (3) Rights, justice and care. Learning disability is a real phenomenon that is relationally and contextually shaped. It is experienced in and by communities. Inclusion has to go beyond rhetoric and must become individually meaningful as well as contextually possible. In the workshops equal rights in the face of human diversity and not sameness were emphasised. A ‘de-socialised’ rights based approach has the potential to render people with learning disabilities vulnerable. The socio-relational support context is critical for people with learning disabilities to realise rights based inclusion. A social justice focus is particularly relevant in an era of economic austerity that places many support services for people with learning disability under threat.  

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