Challenges Facing the Disabled People’s Movement in the UK: An Analysis of Activist’s Positions

Dodd, Steven Robert (2014) Challenges Facing the Disabled People’s Movement in the UK: An Analysis of Activist’s Positions. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis explores disabled activist’s perceptions of the challenges to British disabled people thrown up by changes in policy and cuts to services made by the coalition government of 2010-2015. These themes are explored through a qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with 20 disabled activists.
The thesis begins with a presentation of the history of the British Disabled People’s Movement, drawing on writers such as Hunt (1966, 1981), Campbell and Oliver (1996) and Barnes and Mercer (2006). This is followed by an overview of available evidence concerning current challenges to the standard of living of disabled people. The next chapter involves a discussion of methods in the form of a narrative account of the development of the thesis. This is followed by an interrogation of prominent methodologies in disability research, pointing to the strengths and drawbacks of the emancipatory disability research approach (Oliver, 1992; Bares 2008) by drawing on critical realist perspectives (Sayer, 1992; Lawson, 1999). Moving on to an analysis of interview data, the combination of challenges currently facing disabled people are explicated. To make sense of challenges revealed at individual, collective and ideological levels, the notion of ‘enforced individualism’ (Roulstone and Morgan, 2009) is drawn upon. It is argued that, taken together, these challenges comprise novel forms of disablism that coexist with older and more familiar forms of disablism associated with paternalism and oppression within institutions. Following examination of these challenges, attention turns to the political positions and responses that disabled people have adopted in reaction. To theorise such responses, Fraser’s (1995: 2003) analysis of injustice and resistance is applied to the political positions taken by participants. Later chapters reflect further on injustice and resistance, drawing again on Fraser, as well as the extension of the social model of disability presented by Thomas (1999; 2007; 2010; 2012), the political theory of Holloway (1991; 1993a; 1993b; 2005) and the political economy of Polanyi (1944). These theories serve to highlight the nature of contemporary anti-disablist resistance, and also provide a novel means of conceptualising the relationship of disability studies and disability activism.

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