1st December, 2015: “What does the comprehensive spending review mean for ‘people like you’?”

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies & Psychology appeared on Stockport radio station Pure FM 107.8 to discuss the what the comprehensive spending review means for people with learning disabilities.  This followed the publication of her blog on  Metropolis, the University’s policy think tank web page. You can read the blog here.
Katherine described the mounting challenges facing people with learning disabilities who want to work, who use social care and who want to live independently.  In the discussion, Katherine drew on findings from a recent research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society.

9th November, 2015: Considering Intimate Lives: Ways Forward

On Monday 9th November, Considering Intimate Lives: Ways Forward, took place at St Mary’s Church, Sheffield, as part of the Economic and Social Science Research Council’s Festival of Social Sciences, 2015.

This was a collaboration between Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University building on an international collaboration with Ryerson University and MacMaster University in Canada Making Space for Intimate Citizenship funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Canada.

You can read a blog about the event,  written by Kirsty Liddiard (Sheffield),  here.


7th & 8th July, 2015:” There is no them! 7th Child, Youth, Family & Disability Conference, University of the West of England, Bristol.

The seventh in the series of Child, Youth, Family & Disability Conferences took place at the University of the West of England in Bristol this week. The conference is the result of collaboration between colleagues from University of the West of England (Tillie Curran, Sarah Manns & Wendy Merchant), The University of Sheffield (Kirsty Liddiard), The University of Cardiff (Dawn Pickering) and Manchester Metropolitan University (Katherine Runswick-Cole). The aim of the conference is to create a space for disabled children and young people, family members and allies, as well as practitioners and academics, to discuss the issues that touch their lives. Over the two days more than a hundred people came together to share their experiences and ideas.

The conference theme this year was “There is no them!”. The title was a challenge to ways of speaking about and working with disabled children that assume that ‘they’ are all the same or only defined by their ‘disability’. Many of the sessions were delivered in workshop formats using creative approaches such as cartoons and drama and this enabled attendees to explore a range of complex issues including: ethical practices; and unlawful exclusion. Presenters shared information on recreational activities, communication support and the costs associated with living in a disabling world.

Over the course of the conference, it became clear that disabled children, young people and their families continue to experience discrimination and disabling practices, but it was also clear that people are resisting such practices and finding ways to work together to demand change in children and young people’s lives. This conference provides opportunities for attendees to build networks and to gain information and to make positive impacts on disabled children and young people’s lives.

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow Disability Studies and Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University said: “As a team of people working together, we are really proud of this conference and the opportunity it gives to bring people together from a range of backgrounds and experiences. The discussions that follow are always thought provoking and challenging, demanding us all to think differently about childhood and disability and to advocate for change.”

To find out more visit:

18th May, 2015: New report out on digital exclusion of people with learning disabilities

You can download the report here: Report1

23rd April, 1015: The Listening School

The Listening School 23.4.15
Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies & Psychology in RIHSC was in invited to present at the Listening School Conference at London South Bank University on 23rd April, 2015.  Katherine took part in a panel presentation session on the theme of listening to children in the morning and facilitated workshops in the afternoon focused on parent-professional talk.
If you want to find out more visit:

18th March, 2015: Dis/Ability & Support at the Research Institute for Health and Social Change, Manchester Metropolitan University.

An audience of activists, academics and practitioners packed into a seminar room at Birley to listen to inter/national speakers talk about dis/ability and support. Rebecca Lawthom, Professor of Community Psychology at MMU welcomed the attendees to the Brooks Building, part of the new Birley Campus.  Next up was Professor Dan Goodley, Professor of Education and Disability Studies at the University of Sheffield, who introduced the theme of the public event exploring the ways in which disability requires us to think more collectively, about the ‘we’ not the ‘I’, in talking about support.

Dan introduced the first speaker Jack Levinson, from City University New York and Visiting Fullbright Scholar at the University of Sheffield.  Jack’s ethnographic exploration of what it means to be ‘normal’, ‘healthy’ and ‘independent’ was informed by his insights from his book Making Life Work: Freedom and Disability in  Community Group Home. University of Minnesotat Press, 2010. Jack was followed by Paul Doyle, an MMU alumni.  Paul has recently completed his doctoral study focused on self-advocacy for young disabled people in education settings at the University of Sheffield. Paul spoke about the challenges and opportunities that being a researcher with ‘multiple impairments’ had raised in the research process. Paul was followed by Freyja Haraldsdóttir and Embla Guðrúnar Ágústsdóttir.  Freyja and Embla are disabled, feminist activists from Iceland, who first met at the Theorizing Normalcy & the Mundane Conference held in MMU in 2010.  Freyja and Embla discussed the ways in which the Personal is Political and the Political is Personal giving examples of their diversity work in Iceland as disabled feminists.

One of the attendees, Dr Rachel Swindells, Senior Research Assistant in RIHSC, described the seminar afterwards as “incredibly thought provoking, troubling and empowering”.

This event was co-organised by the Critical & Community Psychology Research Group at MMU and Disability Studies @ The University of Sheffield.  For more information about future events follow @critcommpsymmu @disabilityuos or visit

January – February, 2015: Human Trouble: what does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be human? This question was the focus of the recently completed Human Trouble seminar series, part of the Humanities in Practice Festival, 2014-15, hosted at the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at MMU.

Human Trouble was co-convened by Dr Lucy Burke, Department of English and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, the Research Institute for Health and Social Change with Helen Malarky, IHSSR project manager, leading the organization of the events. The series set out to consider the enduring question of what it means to be human in 21st Century Britain, at a time when many disabled people continue to find themselves on the edges of ordinary life in work, education and love. Press reports of contemporary examples of the abuse, neglect and hate crime directed at disabled people appear alongside descriptions of disabled people as benefit scroungers in a time of austerity.  These stories highlight the precarious position of some disabled people in relation to the category of ‘the human’, while, at the same time, disabled people are refusing their designation as ‘less than human’ and asserting their human rights to equality and justice. Sessions as part of the Human Trouble strand considered how dis/ability disrupts, questions, enlarges, and, indeed, troubles, what it means to be human.

Katherine Runswick-Cole, co-convener of the seminar series said: “This exciting series of events attracted members of the public, activists and academics to the University. The mixture of presentations, panels and comedy sparked lively and passionate debates exploring what it means to be human. The series raised important questions about public policy and practice as well as inspiring challenging theoretical debates. We are really grateful to all the presenters, panel members, comics and audience members who made this such an informative and enjoyable series.”

If you would like to read more about each of the events in the series, please visit the links below:

#Justiceforallthedudes – The Laughing Boy Bill, 26th January, 2015

Human Trouble – Austerity and Disability, 3rd February, 2015

No Laughing Matter?

Disability: An Opportunity To Rethink The Human

3rd February, 2015: What is Inclusion? Unconference organised by the Educational Rights Alliance, London.

 Changes in the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) system have sparked debates about the inclusion of children with SEND in schools.

On 3rd February, the Educational Rights Alliance hosted the first unconference on inclusion in the England. The unconference was sponsored by Irwin Mitchell. Irwin Mitchell are solicitors with a specialism in SEND law.

A mixture of parents/carers, teachers, academics, activists and allies attended the unconference. An unconference allows attendees to set the agenda and to suggest topics for discussion so the programme was a mixture of presentations and open forum debates.

Presenters included eleven-year old Nye Doherty who presented on his experiences of schooling. Diane Kay, from the Educational Rights Alliance, spoke about her experiences as a parent of a disabled child. Damian Milton, an academic and a parent, spoke about his research in schools and Katherine Runswick-Cole, from RIHSC, and Nick Hodge from Sheffield Hallam University gave a presentation on the challenges parent/carer-practitioner partnership working. You can see their presentation here:

Open forum debates included discussions about Education Health and Care Plans, the Local Offer and the possible opportunities offered by the changes in the legislation.

Katherine Runswick-Cole said: “Nick and I were really delighted to be invited to speak at the first unconference on inclusion and to share our research on parent/carer-practitioner partnerships. This worthwhile event stimulated discussion and offered some practical ideas to move the inclusion agenda forward, including developing the Educational Rights Alliance Manifesto”.

If you would like to find out more about the Educational Rights Alliance or to sign up to their Manifesto visit:

9th January, 2015“Partnership is key with ASN pupils” Time Educational Supplement, 

On 9th January, 2015, Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, from RIHSC and Professor Nick Hodge from the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University published an article in the Times Educational Supplement. Based on their research with families, Katherine and Nick wrote about the importance of home-school relationships between parents/carers of children labeled with additional support needs and teachers, offering suggestions for how to improve partnership working.

The magazine reaches a wide audience of educational professionals with an average readership of 349,00 per week. One of those readers, Barbara Owen, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester contacted Katherine to say:

This [article] gives a really clear perspective of how to maintain a correct, positive and helpful approach when meeting with parents.  The guidance is clear and simple. I found the ‘script’ helpful and kept it in mind whilst speaking parents earlier this week.

You can read the full article here:

You can read more from Katherine and Nick writing about inclusive education here:

5th December, 2014: The Launch of the Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies Research Network, South West & Wales, University of the West of England

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, was invited to talk about “Principles for Inclusive Research and Networking” at the launch event of the Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies Network (DCCSN), South West and Wales, at the University of the West of Engalnd.

A group of forty academics, practitioners, parents, disabled people and family members from across the region gathered for the network launch. The idea for the DCCS Network grew from a series of annual Child, Youth, Family and Disability conferences that began at MMU in 2009. The network is a new development from the conferences following on from the publication of an edited text in 2013 (Curran, T. and Runswick-Cole, K. (2013) (eds) Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: critical approaches in a global context, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan

Katherine said: “It is really exciting to see a regional network emerging in the south-west that is committed to carrying out research with disabled children and their allies in ways that ethically respond to their concerns. I’m looking forward to continuing to collaborate with network members and to developing new projects with them.”

You can download Katherine’s presentation here: Network Launch V1

25th November, 2014: A day at Public Health England and the House of Commons

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, has just returned from a trip to London. Katherine began the day at Public Health England (PHE). Katherine was invited by PHE to attend a workshop on “The Best Start to Life”. Katherine joined about thirty academics to work with members of PHE, the Department of Health and the Research Councils to identify key future research agendas for children. Katherine said “it is clear that the rise in child poverty is having a negative impact on health outcomes for children. Disabled children are more likely to live in poverty than their non-disabled peers, it is vital that their experiences are prioritised in health research and debates. I was delighted that PHE invited me to London to contribute to the discussions and to highlight the experiences of disabled children.”

Later that day, Katherine made her way to Westminster to attend the launch of United Response’s #EveryVoteCounts campaign, hosted in the Commons by Dame Anne Begg, MP . There are over 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the UK and yet they are far less likely than the general population to vote. United Response wants to create greater awareness of the rights of people with a learning disability to vote and to make it easier for people to get hold of accessible information about politics, including easy read versions of political parties’ manifestos.

Katherine said: “As part of our current research project here at MMU, Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society” ( ), we have been working with our partner organisations in order to support people with learning disabilities to take part in the political process. It was great to see cross-party support for United Response’s campaign and we hope that we will see an increase in the availability of local, accessible manifestos and a rise in the number of people with a learning disability voting in 2015.”

21st November, 2014: The Launch of the Learning Disability Alliance

On Friday 21st November, Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, attended the launch of the Learning Disability Alliance (LDA) at Manchester Conference Centre. The Learning Disability Alliance brings together organisations led by people with learning disabilities, family-led organisations and the third sector and charities in an alliance for change ( ). The aim of the alliance is to create a strong campaign to fight for the rights of people with learning disabilities. Katherine said: “As part of our current research project here at MMU, Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society” ( ), people are telling us that their rights are under threat. Self-advocacy groups are closing down, independent living is under threat, hate crime is rising and thousands of people with learning disabilities are still living, and in the tragic cases of Connor Sparrowhawk ( ) and Stephanie Bincliffe ( ), dying in institutions. The Learning Disability Alliance offers and opportunity for academics to work with people with learning disabilities and other allies to tackle the policies and practices that are harming the lives of people with learning disabilities”.

You can join the LDA by signing up here:

You can support the campaign to end the institutionalisation of people with learning disabilities here:

11th November, 2014: Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole kicks off seminar series at The University of Exeter

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology in the Research Institute for Health and Social Change at MMU will be delivering the first seminar as part of the Graduate School of Education Research Seminar Series a the University of Exeter on 11th November, 2014 (details here:

Katherine’s talk Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: informing research and practice? will draw on her recently published edited text (with Tillie Curran) Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: critical approaches in a global context (2013, Palgrave. Available here: ).

Katherine said: “Disabled children’s childhood studies present a paradigm shift away from the long-standing deficit discourses of disabled childhoods that have dominated Western culture and its reaches. In disabled children’s childhood studies, disabled children are not viewed as necessarily having problems or being problems but as having childhoods.

05th November, 2014: Disability, austerity and resistance: activism in the academy

 On the 5th November, the Research Institute of Health and Social Change hosted “Disability and Austerity: the impact of the cuts”. This seminar event was one of a series of events being held nationally as part of the Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science. The Festival aims to promote the importance of social science to general audiences.

The Disability and Austerity event was allied to an on-going research project being carried out by a research team here at MMU: “Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society”.  The project is a collaboration between MMU, The University of Sheffield, The University of Bristol, Northumbria University, SpeakUp Self-Advocacy, The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, Mencap, Pathways Associates, Manchester Learning Disability Partnership and independent living advisors. The aim of the project is to explore how people with learning disabilities are participating in a time of “Big Society”.

Delegates were welcomed to the event by the organiser Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology in RIHSC.

First to present were Jodie Bradley and Vicky Farnsworth from SpeakUp Selfadvocacy. Jodie and Vicky spoke about the importance and benefits of self-advocacy in the lives of people with learning disabilities. Engagement with self-advocacy enables people to work, participate in their local communities and to lead happy lives.

Next were Max Neill, Pete Crane, Wendy Crane and Katherine Runswick-Cole talking about circles of support as a means of tackling social isolation and exclusion in the lives of people with learning disabilities. Pete talked about the power of the circle being like ‘nuclear energy’ to enable positive changes in people’s lives.

Finally Rebecca Lawthom, Professor of Community Psychology at MMU, and Keith Bates from the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities spoke about enabling practice to support people with learning disabilities into employment including: job coaching, business circles and social enterprises.

Katherine said: “We’d like to thank the attendees at this event for their interest and enthusiasm. We were delighted to hear them commit to take what they had learned from the day and to bring some of the learning to their communities and organisations. “

If you would like to find out more about self-advocacy, circles of support and employment visit our project blog:

07 th August: Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: “insightful views, authentic voices and critical analyses of current theories”

Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: critical approaches in a global context (Palgrave) edited by Tillie Curran, the University of the West of England and Katherine Runswick-Cole, RIHSC, MMU, has received a glowing review in the academic journal Childhood.

The reviewer Marie Schoeman, Department of Basic Education, South Africa; Down Syndrome South Africa, South Africa; University of Pretoria, South Africa, describes the book as:

” a welcome contribution to disabled children’s childhood studies because it is well written and provides insightful views, authentic voices and critical analyses of current theories. It is a most welcome book also because it so clearly demonstrates that disabled children’s childhood studies need a broad and global perspective and should be rooted in the point of view of children with disabilities themselves and that of their parents, not forgetting the communities in which they live …  “

“if only members of the broader community, interested in childhood, would take the trouble of reading it, the world would become a better place.”

Several members of the RIHSC research team contributed chapters to the book including Shaun Grech, Katherine Runswick-Cole, Linda Derbyshire and Rebecca Lawthom.  Jenny Slater, a recent PhD graduate from the department of Psychology at MMU, also contributed a chapter.

You can read the review in full here: 

3rd August:Down Under with the Big Society project team 

As part of the dissemination and impact strategy for the research project “Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society”(, Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies & Psychology, has just returned from a trip to Melbourne and Singapore to promote the on-going work of the research project with international colleagues including disabled people, family members, activists, academics and allies.

Katherine travelled to Melbourne with her colleague and project partner Professor Dan Goodley, from the University of Sheffield, to deliver a series of keynote lectures, seminars and workshop presentations.  On Thursday 24th July, Katherine and Dan delivered a workshop on research funding at the Victoria Institute, Victoria University Melbourne; this workshop addressed questions of seeking research funding in a climate of shrinking sources of funding.  Katherine and Dan were then interviewed for a local community television channel.  You can see Katherine’s interviews here: 

Disabled Students Childhood Studies:

Approaching Disabilty:

What great schools do


 In the afternoon, Dan and Katherine delivered a seminar paper drawing on their current research “Becoming Dis/human: thinking about the the human through dis/ability” – the article on which the presentation is based is available here:

From Friday 25th – Sunday 27th July, Katherine and Dan joined delegates at the Disability Studies in Education Conference at Victoria Institute (  On Sunday, Dan and Katherine presented their keynote lecture: “A Poshuman Manifesto”. Katherine said: “It was a great opportunity to meet colleagues working in the field of disability  studies and education.  We were able to share our ideas with disabled people, family members, activists and academics in a stimulating and friendly conference.  A particular highlight for me was the Parents’ Panel where parents of disabled children in New Zealand shared their stories.”

Monday 28th July saw Dan and Katherine visit RMIT University where they were able to meet up with members of SARU ( a self advocacy group in Melbourne and to deliver a presentation on the links between the self advocacy movement and the academy.  This was another highlight for the team who work closely with self-advocates in the UK.

On Wednesday 30th July, Katherine and Dan arrived in Singapore to meet with Rebecca Lawthom, Professor of Community Psychology, MMU and they headed straight away to present “Reading Rosie: Four theoretical readings of disabled childhood in a time of Big Society” at the New Medical School of Nanyang & Imperial Universities, Singapore.  This was followed by a discussion with attendees about the impact of the psychologisation of childhood on children and families’ lives in both the UK and in Singapore.

Katherine said: “this trip was a fantastic opportunity for the research team to share our work but also to learn from others in the field of disability studies, education, self-advocacy and the medical humanities. We hope that this trip will strengthen the international impact of the Big Society research project and help us to continue to develop research partnerships beyond the UK context.”

View some pics of event:

IMG_1836 IMG_1847 IMG_1902 IMG_1904

25th July: Disability, Poverty and Health Care in Guatemala: Using Film for a Change

Shaun Grech from RIHSC and member of CDS@MMU recently completed the project entitled ‘Disability, Poverty and Access to Health Care in the Global South: Using Film for a Change’. The project funded by the BA/Leverhulme Small Grants Scheme used film as an ethnographic tool to explore and communicate the barriers for disabled people in extreme poverty in rural areas in Guatemala. More information on the project and to watch the short feature film, please follow this link

9th July: Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane, 6th Annual International Conference, 8th & 9th July, 2014, Sheffield

RIHSC members, Professor Rebecca Lawthom, Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole and Dr Andrew Stevenson have just returned from the Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane Conference in Sheffield. The Normalcy Conference was initially held at MMU but is now organized in collaboration with the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University and, this year, for the first time, was held in conjunction with the White Rose Studies of Ableism, a consortium made up of the universities of Sheffield, York and Leeds.

This year’s conference drew delegates from across the globe and included keynote presentations from internationally recognised disability studies colleagues including Nirmala Erevelles (Alabama), Tanya Titchkosky (Toronto) Lucy Burke (MMU), Rod Michalko (Toronto) and Tom Campbell (Leeds).

A key theme of the conference was the role of what has been described as neoliberal ableism (Goodley, 2014) in the lives of disabled people. The intersections of race, gender, sexuality and dis/ability permeated the presentations and debates and links to activism were evident as the #JusticeforLB flag flew over the conference.

In his closing keynote address Rod Michalko said: “I am honoured to be presenting under LB’s flag… the quality of papers at the conference has been higher than almost any I have been to”

To learn more about this year’s conference go to #normalcy2014. #normalcy2015 will be hosted at MMU at the new Birley Fields Campus, updates will follow.

4th July: CAMHS Conference, Northampton

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, delivered a keynote address at the annual Child, Adolescent & Mental Health Conference: “Reading Rosie: what stories do we tell about disabled children?” Katherine’s presentation drew on research carried out with Dan Goodley, University of Sheffield, “Does Every Child Matter, post-Blair? The interconnections of disabled childhoods” (ESRC:,%20Post-Blair%20-The%20interconnections%20of%20disabled%20childhoods_tcm8-18877.pdf ).

This conference coincided with the end of the #107days campaign for Justice for LB. LB was a young man who died in a bath in an NHS setting; hit death was found to be preventable. The final day of the CAMHS conference was dedicated to LB’s memory on the first anniversary of his death. You can find out more about the Justice for LB campaign here:

Katherine said: “Much has been written about the role that the professions played in LB’s preventable death, and subsequently. So it was to their great credit that the CAMHS conference team unequivocally supported the #107days campaign. I feel very privileged to have been invited to contribute to the day.”

30th June: Big Society Partners present at Inclusive Research In Social Care Event, Manchester

Jodie Bradley, Vicky Farnsworth and Annie Ferguson from Speak Up Self-Advocacy ( presented on “Big Society” and their role in research at the Inclusive Research in Social Care Event organized by the North West People in Research Forum (

Jodie, Vicky and Annie are all partners with RIHSC in the research project “Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society?” which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and based at MMU.

Jodie, Vicky and Annie spoke about their experiences of self-advocacy in a time of Big Society and about the impact of the cuts on self-advocacy services and the lives of people with learning disabilities.

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, researcher on the project, explained: “Jodie, Vicky and Annie’s presentation was a great example of the potential of inclusive research and collaboration between MMU and the third sector.”

To find out more about the project and to read Jodie, Vicky and Annie’s presentation visit: (

24th June: Disabled Children’s Research Network formed in Belfast

The disabled children’s research network was formed following the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded seminar series focusing on research and disabled children. Annually, researchers from across the UK come together to share examples of current research and thinking in the field. This year Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole was invited, with her colleague Dr Tillie Curran from the University of the West of England, to present their recent work “Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: theory, research and practice”. Katherine and Tillie drew on the principles embedded within their recently published edited text “Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: critical perspectives in a global context” ( to explore the development for Education, Health and Care Plans as part of the legislative changes for children and young people with Special Educational Needs/Disabilities that will be enacted in England in September, 2014.

Katherine said: “the network offers a much needed space for researchers from across the four countries of the United Kingdom to come together and reflect on the impact of current research as well as legislative and policy changes that affect the lives of disabled children and their families.”

13th June: Four days, three cities, three different disability conferences

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole is just back from a bit of a conference marathon: four days, three cities, and three conferences!

Day one for Katherine began at the Learning Disability in Research Conference (#LDSConf2014) at the University of Manchester on 9th June, 2014.. The day focused on research with people with learning disabilities. Katherine spoke about how she hoped learning disability research might make an impact in the real world by drawing on examples her current research with colleagues at MMU, The Universities of Sheffield and Bristol and Northumbria University: “Big Society” Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society” ( The conference was part of #107days of action to fight for #justiceforLB. LB died in an Assessment and Treatment Unit run by the NHS; tragically, he was left unsupervised in the bath, even though staff had been informed that LB had epilepsy, and drowned. An independent inquiry found that his death was ‘preventable’. The #JusticeforLB campaign is fighting for better lives for people with learning disabilities and to raise funds so that LB’s family can have legal representation at the inquest into his death. You can read more about the campaign here: . LB’s mother, Dr Sara Ryan, a disability researcher at The University of Oxford, was one of the keynote speakers at the event and she spoke about the campaign. Other speakers included Professor Dan Goodley from the University of Sheffield asking what makes us ‘human’, and Dr Anat Greenstein from The University of Manchester talking about inclusive education. Members of the Partnership Steering Group at the University of Manchester also presented about their work at the university and co-chaired the sessions.

Katherine’s next stop, days two and three, were at the University of the West of England in Bristol on 9th and 10th June. Katherine attended the Child, Youth Family & Disability Conference. This is the sixth in the conference series. Until now, the conference has been held at MMU, but this year the conference was co-organised by Katherine with Dr Tillie Curran at UWE. The conference has always included disabled children and young people, parents/carers, family members, practitioners and academics and this year was no exception. A really exciting group of people came together to talk about how we can ‘build understandings’ between disabled children, young people, parents/carers and practitioners and academics. Katherine said: “It was great to see some familiar faces from conferences in Manchester as well as some news faces more local to Bristol, and to listen to children and young people’s voices as well as their family members and professionals and academics working with them.” Keynote speakers included MMU’s very own “Bridging the Gap”: this is a project that supports disabled young people into employment. You can read about the project here: If you are interested in finding out more about the conference, you can follow tweets from the conference at #CYFD2014, or contact Katherine

On day four, 11th June, Katherine arrived in Sheffield, still raring to go! She was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Good Practice Conference in Sheffield. This conference aims to share good practice between parent/carers and professionals. Katherine presented with Nick Hodge, from Sheffield Hallam University. Their presentation ,“’You say, I hear”, focused on parent/carer-professional relationships.

Katherine said: “four days, three cities and three conferences has been a busy week, but I feel really privileged to have been able to learn so much from being part of such exciting events. My hope is that we can build on these partnerships to make a positive impact in the lives of disabled people and their families”.

11th May: CDS at Seminar on Disability and Austerity

Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, and Rebecca Lawthom, Professor of Community Psychology, took part in a seminar jointly organized by Critical Disability Studies @ MMU and Disability Studies @ The University of Sheffield that focused on disability and austerity. The seminar was held at the School of Education, the University of Sheffield on 7th May, 2014. This was an opportunity for a discussion of the impact of the cuts in the lives of disabled people.

Attendees, from both sides of the Pennines, listened to the following presentations:

Dan Goodley (University of Sheffield) – defining and contesting austerity: the case of dis/ability

Nick Hodge (Sheffield Hallam University) – The Impact of Austerity on the Aspirations of People with Autism

Katherine Runswick-Cole (Manchester Metropolitan University) – Cruel optimism and disability

Susana Rojas Pernia (University of Cantabria) – Disability barriers in Spain

Rebecca Lawthom (Manchester Metropolitan University) – Revolting subjects and austerity

If you would like to hear the presentations, they are available as a podcast here:

19th April 2014: CDS at Global Summit on Childhood Vancouver

Katherine Runswick-Cole, Manchester Metropolitan University and Tillie Curran, University of the West of England, UK, presented ‘Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: a new area of study?’ at the 2014 Global Summit on Childhood held by the Association for Childhood Education in Vancouver 10th – 13th April. Their paper is based on their book: ’Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: Critical Approaches in a Global Context,’ 2013, Palgrave.

“It was great to share the first hand accounts, ethical research approaches and theories that ‘trouble’ the Western norms that dominate disabled children’s experience.   Making visible the uncritical linking of ‘global development’ and ‘early child development’ provoked fresh discussion of priorities in the Early Childhood Development Task Force of the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities. 

“We are also excited to meet colleagues we hope will contribute the next book ‘Building Understandings of Disability and Childhood in Local and Global Contexts’. “

10th March 2014: “We have a lot to give…”: what people with learning disabilities say about Big Society

Researchers from RIHSC have taken part in the North West Learning Disability Forum in Blackpool on 26th February, 2014. The Forum is an opportunity for 120+ self-advocates from 53 local areas to come together to discuss issues that affect their lives, to speak up and to have their views heard. 

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, and Dr Laurence Clark, Visiting Research Fellow in RIHSC and Associate Consultant with Pathways Associates, facilitated a workshop asking people with LD if they had heard of Big Society and what they thought it might mean in their lives.  Katherine and Laurence are currently working with a range of academic and community partners on a project Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.  

Self advocates told Katherine and Laurence that, like many other people, some people with LD had not heard of the Big Society.  Self-advocates described Big Society is a ‘no go’ area for people with LD because self-advocacy services are being cut, benefits and social care are being reduced and there are fewer opportunities for people with LD to participate in their communities.  But self-advocates also felt that, with the right support, they had a lot to offer to Big Society as community members, employees and volunteers.

The session ended with self-advocates sending messages to government.  Katherine tweeted these messages at the Office for Disability Issues @ODIgovuk from the @BigSocietyDis account.  Here are some examples of the tweets she sent:

 “Don’t cut funding to self-advocacy groups…”

 “Stop talking jargon ….”

 “Give us a chance to work…”

 “Help us to live well ….”

 “Life is hard enough …”

Follow @BigSocietyDis to see more tweets from the self-advocates and to follow the progress of the Big Society project or visit:

06th March 2014: Cruel optimism: disability, austerity and Big Society

Does Big Society offer no more than cruel optimism in the lives of disabled people with learning disabilities?  This was the question that Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology at RIHSC, posed at the Health and Human Sciences Postgraduate Research Forum at the University of Huddersfield on 5th March, 2014.  Katherine presented a paper drawing on her research as part of the project “Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society” (ESRC funded). The project broadly asks how people with LD are faring in Big Society.

Katherine said: “many disabled people with learning disabilities (LD) are telling us that they feel excluded in Big Society, but others are telling us that they are participating in their communities, in work and within their families.  We are interested in finding out more about the moments when disabled people with LD are contributing to as well as resisting and re-shaping Big Society”.

You can download slides for the presentation here:

You can follow the project’s progress via and on Twitter @BigSocietyDis

01st December 2013: ‘Being a researcher-in-residence’: Katherine Runswick-Cole presents at ESRC seminar series in participatory research

Katherine Runswick-Cole has just taken part in the Economic and Social Research Council seminar series on participatory research with people with high support needs at Southampton University on 28th November, 2013.   This was the third in a series of four seminars on participatory research.  The final seminar will be at the Open University in Milton Keynes on 11th April, 2014.  Speakers in Southampton included Andy Minnion and Ajay Choksi from the Rix Centre talking about doing research using new media and Debby Watson from the University of Bristol who spoke about doing research with very disabled children.

Katherine was invited to give a paper, co-authored with Dan Goodley from the University of Sheffield, about being a ‘researcher-in-residence’ as part of a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council: “Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society”.  The project is a partnership between four universities, MMU, The University of Sheffield, Northumbria University and the University of Bristol, and Speak Up in Rotherham, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities and, Max Neil, Helen Smith, Pete Crane and Wendy Crane, Independent Living Advisors in the North West.

Katherine said: “we are working with our partners to find out how people with learning disabilities are faring in Big Society.  Being a researcher-in-residence means spending time with people and getting to know them well; not always trying to be the person in control but letting other people tell you what you need to do; and recognising the importance of what people say and what they know.”

If you would like to learn more about the project follow @BigSocietyDis on twitter or visit the blogspot

15th November 2013: Beyond Autism – re-thinking the label” ESRC Festival Event sparks debate

On Saturday 9th November, nearly one hundred delegates arrived for the seminar “Beyond Autism – re-thinking the label”.  This event which was was part of the Economic and Social Research Council annual Festival of Social Science.  It is the third year running that the Research Institute of Health and Social Change has organised an event as part of the Festival, which is in its eleventh year.

The Festival of Social Science exists to promote cutting edge social science research to a general audience.  The Beyond Autism event was a chance to explore the ways in which the label of autism works in people’s lives and to question the coherence of the label both as a biological condition and as an explanation for behaviour.  The seminar included presentations from a number of social scientists who describe themselves as working in the field of critical autism studies.  These included: Professor Sami Timimi, a  a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Director of Medical Education in the National Health Service in Lincolnshire and a Visiting Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Lincoln; Dr Rebecca Mallett, Senior Lecturer in Education and Disability Studies at Sheffield Hallam University; Graham Collins, Clinical Psychologist, Paul Maloney, Counselling Psychologist and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies & Psychology at MMU. The event was chaired by Dan Goodley, professor of Education and Disability Studies at The University of Sheffield, and Tom Muskett, lecturer in speech and language therapy acted as a discussant.

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, the event organiser, said: “Autism is an area of intense public interest as we can see by the number of films, books and television programmes that focus on the ‘condition’.  The number of people being diagnosed with autism continues to rise and debates continue about how autism can or should be treated.  The aim of this event was to take a step back from these issues and to consider how the ways in which autism is described impact on the lives of people labelled with it.  There was much debate on Saturday about the utility or not of autism as a label, but the event was a fantastic opportunity to have these discussions and, and as social scientists, to share our work outside of the university”.

Download presentation here

Watch video here

12th September 2013: New Project for CDS@MMU: Big Society? Disabled People with learning disabilities and Civil Society

Austerity, cuts in services, rising debt and hate crime: could life get any worse for people with learning disabilities? A new project is looking at opportunities, possibilities, interconnections, resources and support in civil society occupied by people labeled with learning disabilities. Four university partners (Manchester Metropolitan University; The University of Sheffield; Northumbria University, and the University of Bristol) will work with three organisations of and for disabled people (Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities; Speak Up Self Advocacy and independent living consultants) who want to engage communities, promote inclusion and self-advocacy. In these times of Big Society and austerity we ask: how can people with learning disabilities live a good life?

You can follow the project via our blog: or on Twitter @BigSocietyDis

Contact: for more information

26th June 2013: Time to change for disabled people: Child, Youth, Family & Disability Conference, 18th & 19th June 2013

On 18th and 19th June, 2013, the Research Institute for Health and Change hosted to the fifth Child, Youth, Family and Disability Conference to be held at Manchester Metropolitan University.  This year the event was organized in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Manchester, The University of the West of England and The University of Sheffield. The aim of the conference is to create a space within the university where disabled children, young people, their families and allies, including academics and professionals, can come together to share experiences and to advocate for change.  This year 70 delegates registered for the conference.

A key principle of the event is to try to make the workshops and presentations accessible and participatory.  On the first day, Katherine Runswick-Cole (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Tillie Curran (The University of the West of England) introduced the conference and the ideas behind ‘Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies’ (  Anat Greenstein (Manchester University) and Jenny Slater (Sheffield Hallam University) set the participatory tone for the event by organizing the “Best Ever Future Worlds: a toolbox for change” workshop, using creative approaches to inspire delegates to imagine their best ever world for disabled children and young people.  Sonali Shah (The University of Leeds) presented the findings from a recent project “Bringing disability history alive in schools: Promoting a new understanding of disability through performance methods” ( Young people from the Voice, Inclusion, Participation, Empowerment and Research (VIPER) group reported back on their research findings about the lack of participation of disabled children in decision-making about services (Visit: and the Alliance for Inclusive Education and Parents for Inclusion presented their new film “Who is on my side? Getting it right for disabled people and their families” (

On the second day, Dawn Pickering (University of Cardiff) presented her findings from a study looking at disabled children’s experiences of cycling.  Jane Woodsford (parent) told us how she came to develop an individualized learning programme for her son. Sumaira Naseem (Manchester Metropolitan University) presented on the moral exploitation of disabled children in research and clinical practice and Diane Kay (parent) asked us to put the ‘F-word’ (fun) back into disabled children’s childhoods.  Jo Skitteral (See-Ability: challenged delegates to think outside of ‘their problem boxes’ in relation to disabled children and young people. Rebecca Lawthom (Manchester Metropolitan University) asked why non-disabled people are so messed up around childhood disability and Dororthy Boggs (Handicap International: concluded the event by talking about families’ experiences in Tibet.

Katherine Runswick-Cole, one of the organizers of the event, said “It was fantastic to welcome so many people to MMU who are committed to making positive changes in the lives of disabled children, young people and families.  Disabled children and young people want change, and they want to be listened to.  We need to continue to work together to find better ways of making sure that disabled children and young people’s voices are heard and that we actively respond to their concerns and challenges.”

More details of the presentations and other information can be found by following #CYFD2013 on Twitter.

Some of the presentations from the conference can be downloaded from the media section.

14th March 2013: Una Vida sin palabras, ¡Viva! 19th Spanish and Latin American Film Festival – Shaun Grech from CDS@MMU will be joining a panel of invited guest speakers for a post-screening discussion of the film Una Vida sin palabras, a documentary about young deaf adults in rural Nicaragua.The event will be held in The Annexe at the Cornerhouse in Manchester-Thu 14 Mar 2013- 18:30-20:30 – FREE- Booking Required- More info:

13th March 2013: Resilience research inspires a “Guide to Life”: Researchers in the Research Institute of Health and Social Change at MMU have recently completed a research project on resilience in the lives of disable people  with Scope, the UK disability charity.  A toolkit developed as part of the project has been used to inspire a group of young disabled people to write a ‘Guide to Life”.  In Autumn 2012 some young disabled people took part in a Trendsetters workshop. Trendsetters is a project run by Scope for young disabled people (10-18) to share information and ideas. The aim of the workshop was to think about all the different things that can help people lead the life they want.  Sometimes it’s easy to feel that it is all down to the person whose life it is, but actually there are lots of other things that are important too!  Trendsetters wanted to share some of what was talked about, so have put together  a ‘guide to life’ for other young people. You can see the ‘guide to life’ here:  For information about the Resilience project visit or contact

12th March 2013: Every Child Deserves a Family: adoption activity days make an impact- Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, was asked to speak at the Every Child Deserves a Family Conference in Belfast, organised by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, Northern Ireland.  Katherine spoke about a recent project evaluating the introduction of adoption activity days, a new way of family finding for children.  Katherine said ‘our research suggests that adoption activity days offer a new and innovative approach that will complement the existing methods of family finding.  29 children have been placed from 4 activity days held in England over the last year.  The first adoption activity will be held in Northern Ireland in June this year. Adoption activity days were the subject of one of the events as part of the Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science in November, 2012.  The event was included as an example of where ESRC-funded research had informed policy and practice at a recent Council meeting.  Adoption activity days were described by Professor Boyle, Chief Executive of the ESRC, as an ‘innovative way of introducing adoptive parents to children’.

12th March 2013: Shaun Grech delivering public lecture at the University of Malta: Dr Shaun Grech from RIHSC/CDS@MMU recently delivered a public lecture at the University of Malta entitled: “Working with disability in rural poverty: critical and fluid self(reflections) beyond metanarratives of comfort”. Organised by the Department of International Relations (part of the Lecture Series), the lecture which questioned and challenged the academic/research- practice divide was well attended by postgraduate students, lecturers and civil society involved in humanitarian work and international development as well as others interested in action research.

4th March: Katherine Runswick-Cole talking Neurodiversity in Odense, Denmark: Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, has just returned from the ‘Handicap 2013: Diversitet, Design, Social Innovation’ Conference in Odense, Denmark held on 28th February, 2013.  The 240 attendees at the conference included disabled people as well as managers working in education and social care. Delegates came from municipalities all over Denmark.  Katherine, who was invited to present on ‘(Neuro)diversity: pros and cons in a social policy context’ said: ‘It was a fantastic opportunity to meet colleagues in Denmark working in education and social care.’

2nd March 2013: Disability And The Cuts: A Community Conference: This one-day community conference is being organized by disabled people. We take a broad view of what disability means, and we include people with learning disabilities, any type of impairment or with mental health problems.We are providing a chance for disabled people to get together anddiscuss how we have been affected by the cuts, or how we fear we willbe affected. It is also a chance to look at ways for our Movement to go forward. More info here: and Place and Time: Saturday 2 March 2013, 10:30am to 5:30pm at Breakthrough UK, Aked Close, Ardwick, Manchester M12 4AN (location map here:

4th February 2013: Disability Murals – art for social change: Disability Murals ( has an exhibition coming up in the Houses of Parliament. The exhibition uses painted murals to convey the messages and priorities of disabled people living in a wide range of different circumstances – including disabled asylum seekers, ex-servicemen, parents, people with learning difficulties in residential accommodation. It would be great if you could write to your MP (find them on and ask them to take a look.The Exhibition will be held from 11-15th Feb in the Upper Waiting Hall. On Tuesday 12th Feb from 12.30-3pm, some of the people who created the murals will be available to explain their messages. Disability Murals will be exhibiting at Manchester University from June 7-8th as part of the ‘What are we hiding?’ conference. For more information click here Follow the project on Facebook

30th January 2013: Artist Liz Crow bedding out’ in Salisbury in April: Following its successful run at Ipswich Art School Gallery as part of SPILL Festival of Performance, Bedding In moves to to Salisbury Arts Centre in April 2013, becoming ‘Bedding Out’ in the process. People can join in via Twitter. More info here:

22nd January 2013: Call for Papers: Globalising Mental Health or Pathologising the Global South? Mapping the Ethics, Theory and Practice of Global Mental Health. Disability and the Global South: An International Journal. Guest Editors: China Mills and Suman Fernando. For Call for Papers click here

16th January 2013: Dan Goodley: Inaugural Lecture: The Psychopathology of the normals: Why non-disabled people are so messed up around disability All welcome- Free Entrance- followed by reception
Date: Thursday 14th March 2013 Time: 5pm
Venue: The conference room, ICOSS Building, 219 Portobello, Sheffield, S1 4DP
More info:

9th January 2013: Shaun Grech from CDS@MMU supporting groundbreaking Maltese disability movement: Shaun Grech from CDS@MMU is currently supporting the growing Maltese DPO, Breaking Limits who are currently in the process of drafting recommendations for national policy changes, and who are stepping up efforts at lobbying and activism in Malta in unprecedented ways. Media presence has been extraordinary over the past months. Grech comments: ‘This is a movement of disabled people, working in a context where a movement that is genuinely representative does not yet exist, and where the lack of a culture of protest and sometimes fear, have stopped disabled people from speaking up on their own terms. The new movement is indeed breaking limits, and I am proud and grateful to have a small part in supporting this revolution in my own country- not least because the general elections are round the corner’.

1st January 2013: Katherine Runswick-Cole writing for Nursery World: Katherine Runswick-Cole, Research Fellow in Disability and Psychology, has been asked to write a monthly column for Nursery World magazine. Nursery World is the leading title (in print and online) for early years education and childcare professionals in the UK, with 103,000 on-line subscribers.  Katherine’s brief is to write on the topic of inclusion. Her first column, which will be out in January, is on gay marriage and its implications for early years practice. Katherine said:  ‘As a former early years practitioner, I am absolutely delighted to have been asked to write a column  for Nursery World, an invaluable resource for early years practice for more than 80 years . As a researcher, writing for Nursery World offers a great opportunity for the work we do at the university to make a positive impact on children’s lives’.Access Nursery World at: or through the MMU Library.

10th December 2012: Katherine Runswick-Cole joining editorial board of Disability & Society: Katherine Runswick-Cole, a core member of CDS has been invited to join the editorial board of the leading academic journal in disability studies, Disability & Society.  Disability & Society provides a focus for debate about such issues as human rights, discrimination, definitions, policy and practices.

15th November 2012: Double job success for CDS@MMU PhD students: CDS@MMU is delighted to announce that two PhD students have recently been appointed to posts in Disability Studies at universities in the UK.  In September 2012, Jenny Slater took up the post of Lecturer in Education and Disability Studies at Sheffield Hallam University where she joins an established disability studies and education course team.  Jenny said: “It’s great to have the opportunity to think-through ‘disability’ and share some of my research with such an engaged bunch of undergraduate students at Sheffield Hallam. Many of the student’s will go on to be future educators, so getting them thinking about ‘disability’ as it relates to education is really important”. For more information about the Education and Disability Studies course at Sheffield Hallam see: or follow on Twitter @shudisability.

And at the beginning of November, Anat Greenstein took up the post of Lecturer in Critical Learning Disability Studies at the University of Manchester.  Anat told us: “working on the learning disabilities programme is a challenging and exciting experience. The course works in partnership with people with learning disabilities who take part in teaching, assessments and research as well as advising the course as part of the Partnership Steering Group. It is a privilege to work in such a supportive and diverse environment and my role is to bring to the course a focus on inclusive education. For more information on the BA programme in learning disability studies please visit Information on the MA in critical learning disability studies can be found at

Both Jenny and Anat will submit their PhDs this academic year.

Katherine Runswick-Cole, from CDS@MMU, said “This is an amazing achievement by Jenny and Anat.  Both of them have contributed enormously to the CDS research community as PhD students and we look forward to continued collaboration with them as members of CDS@MMU in the future.”

4th November 2012: ‘Adoption activity days’ can help children find new families: Children’s parties or activity days, where prospective adopters meet children awaiting adoption, could be part of the solution to the current adoption crisis, according to research that will be showcased during the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)’s Festival of Social Science.

“Such parties or activity days went out of fashion in the 1980s but no one is sure why,” says Katherine Runswick-Cole of Manchester Metropolitan University who led the research. “However, our pilot study has shown an overwhelmingly positive response from practitioners, adopters and the children themselves.”

Evidence from the United States suggests that adoption activity days are twice as effective as any other method of family finding for children who are waiting for adoptive families. Around 30 per cent of children are placed in an adoptive family after such days, compared with less than 15 per cent through normal channels.

Dr Runswick-Cole suggests that early findings from their pilot project, which is being run with the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) and a group of local authorities in the East Midlands, suggest that such success could be replicated in the UK. Almost 20 per cent of children from the first two parties have been matched with families.

The children who attend the days are usually ‘hard to place’ – older children or children with complex histories who have been waiting for a long time. The researchers found that when prospective adopters meet children in a social environment they make bonds with them, something that cannot happen from reading their written histories only.[J1] 

“It often changes prospective adopters’ ideas about the kinds of children they might like to adopt,’ says Dr Runswick-Cole. She gives the example of Alisha (not her real name) who has foetal alcohol syndrome and a 50 per cent chance of inheriting a genetic condition from her father. Previously, despite efforts on the part of her social workers, no family had come forward to adopt her. But now Alisha is living with adoptive parents who met her at the activity day, and were captivated by her delightful personality. The activity days have also proved to be beneficial for social workers, as they can meet and network with other social workers supporting the prospective adopters. For the children, the activity days are a fun day out with archery, zip wires, canoeing, craft-making and games. In many ways, they are like an ordinary children’s party with party bags and a big tea.

There has been considerable interest in the pilot project from Government departments and considerations to roll it out nationwide. However, Dr Runswick-Cole sounds a note of caution. “They may seem like ordinary children’s parties”, she says, “but they are very professionally organised with intensive preparation for the children and the adults in order to manage expectations and fears both before and after the event. It is vital that the process is fully understood before it is widely replicated.”

To assist with awareness-raising about the benefits and complexities of such events, the ESRC is funding a public seminar in Manchester, November 3 in the run up to Adoption Week, during the Festival of Social Science. “The seminar is extremely timely and relevant to anyone who has an interest in adoption and family finding,’ says Dr Runswick-Cole. “It will also demonstrate the benefits of social science research in contributing to practice which enhances opportunities for children and families.” For more information contact Katherine Runswick-Cole Email:
Telephone 0161 247 2906

4th November 2012: Research News: Resilience in the lives of disabled children across the life course (with Scope): Researchers at CDS@MMU are coming to the end of a research project with Scope on a project looking at resilience in the lives of disabled people across the life course.  The aim of the study is to understand better what resilience means in the lives of disabled people, what enables or prevents disabled people to become resilient and to consider how these findings can be translated into practice so that services can better enable disabled people.

The research was carried out in four phases: a literature review; a phase of life story interviews with disabled people aged 5-83 and parents/carers of disabled children; a series of focus groups with disabled people of working age, parents/carers of disabled children and with disabled young people; and finally, a community of practice (a group of disabled people and researchers) was formed to develop a toolkit for disabled people and practitioners interested in resilience.

Katherine Runswick-Cole, a member of the research team, said: “We have really valued this opportunity to work with Scope to listen to what disabled people have to say about resilience.  Our participants tell us that resilience is built in relationships with other people and in accessing resources.  This is an important message at a time when the state is shrinking in terms of services and support.  We hope that the report and toolkit developed with disabled people from this project will make a impact on the way that services and support are delivered to and by disabled people.”  For more information visit:

29th July 2012: Emergency Health Care Project in Guatemala: The project run by Shaun Grech in collaboration with Integra Foundation Malta, was featured in Malta’s national paper The Times of Malta. The project run by Grech with local level DPOs provides critical  emergency health care to disabled people in extreme poverty in Guatemala,in particular those living in rural and indigenous areas. For more information on the project see Article can be read here.

26th July 2012:  A men’s group challenging disability: Michael Richards, a PhD student at MMU and project facilitator for the Manpowered project, recently collaborated with men from Manchester Mencap to display an exhibition that showcased the work they completed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. The exhibition displayed a collection of work the men created in response to challenging their health attitudes and to fight against the label of learning difficulties, which they reject as a label that as been applied to them. It included exhibits such as poetry, sculpture, film, photography and art, which were used alongside traditional psychological methods such as questionnaires and informal interviews. It was a break away from the boring and restrictive nature of the medical world or ‘black hole’ (as one man commented).

The project had a positive effect on the men, for example, one man felt he could use poetry to express his sexuality and feelings about life. Another man was able to make decisions for himself, which his carer’s prevent him from doing such as making a cup of tea. For other men, it was arguably life changing, for example, one man decided that after discussing his health with the men, that he should have testicular and prostate checks, which helped him build a positive relationship with medical people. Here are some of the anonymous comments from the public:

‘I really enjoyed the exhibition. I use to work in Norwich in a museum where we created a project with people who were socially excluded. I think any project that makes people think about people in a different and positive light is brilliant, especially if the group had fun making it. Well done’.

‘Informative, thought provoking, fun. Should be bigger with more views from others with learning disabilities’.

‘Really enjoyed the manpowered exhibition. I thought all of the pieces shown were extremely creative and insightful. I particularly loved the gold hands on the green door (sculpture)’.

Overall, the men loved the Manpowered project and wish it would continue has one man put it, it was a ‘celebration of life’. However, they are now involved with similar groups being set up, with Manpowered serving as an inspiration.

28th June: Shaun Grech in New York and ethnographic and practice work in Guatemala:Shaun Grech recently returned from a trip combining work in New York and Guatemala. Hosted by the Psychology Department at the City University of New York (CUNY), Grech presented his work around global disability and poverty. He also held a number of meetings with international organisations, academics and other stakeholders in the bid to foster collaboration. Grech then travelled to Guatemala to conduct visual ethnographic work around disability and poverty and to operationalise jointly with local DPOs a new programme providing emergency health care to disabled people in extreme poverty. This programme run in collaboration with Integra Foundation in Malta ( is currently funded by the ministry for foreign affairs in Malta. Working tirelessly in isolated and impoverished rural areas, and constantly in partnership with local disabled, Grech organised transport, negotiated with health care facilities, accompanied and supported disabled people and their families, and worked with local organisations to create a sustainable programme of health delivery and an active monitoring system for this locally owned project. More information on the project can be found here

28th May 2012: Katherine Runswick-Cole gave a presentation to a group of parents/carers at their inclusion conference. Other speakers included: Joe Whittaker from the Alliance for Inclusive Education and Geraldine Hills from Inclusive Choice.The presentations can be followed here

25th and 26th May,2012: Conference Report: Child, Youth, Family & Disability Conference: For the third year running, disabled children and young people, their parents/carers, practitioners and academics came together for the Child, Youth, Family and Disability Conference hosted by CDS@MMU at the Research Institute for Health and Social Change, Manchester Metropolitan University. As one of the organisers, Anat Greenstein, a doctoral researcher at CDS, said: ‘We wanted to do something a little bit different this year and to involve as many children and young people, family members and practitioners as possible.’

Speakers this year included: young people from Bridge College, Offerton and St Christopher’s School Accrington, eight year old Billie Tyrie, who has a disabled sister, Linda Derbyshire, Honorary Research Fellow at MMU and mother of a disabled daughter, Dave Basnett, a member of the Manchester Coalition of Disabled People. Academics including Damian Milton, the University of Birmingham, and Simo Vehmas, Professor of Special Education, University of Jyväskylä, Embla Ágústsdóttir, chairwoman of the independent living cooperative in Iceland (NPA miðstöðin, Freyja Haraldsdóttir, directress, of the independent living cooperative in Iceland (NPA miðstöðin)and Jenny Slater, doctoral student at MMU, also presented at the conference.

A number of creative workshops also ran alongside the presentations led by Susy Ridout, Birmingham University, Laura Goodfellow, The Children’s Society and Anat Greenstein, MMU. Katherine Runswick-Cole, one of the organisers said: “We are really grateful to all the presenters, workshop leaders and participants who made this a really enjoyable event.  The presentations were engaging, thought-provoking and challenging.  The workshops allowed people to engage in ideas in different and active ways, reflecting the inclusive spirit of the conference.  We look forward to developing this approach further at the 2013 Childhood, Youth, Family and Disability Conference.” For details of the 2013 conference watch this space or contact:

1st December 2011: All at Critical Disability Studies @ MMU were saddened to hear about the death of Vic Finkelstein. He was a legend and his work has guided all in disability studies. Our thoughts are with his family today.

11th November 2011: On Researching Inclusion through Inclusive Research: Toon Maillard, visiting researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University from Ghent University, Belgium set up this symposium with the help of the Critical Disability Studies Unit. The symposium was an attempt to bring together people who want to discuss this topic and are willing to think around it. Think about how research on certain topics becomes way more profound as a cooperative projects between academics and non-academics. But also how Academia can make their education, research processes and results more accessible to those about who and for the benefit of whom they carry out this research.

Toon Maillard spoke on the topic of why he deems it necessary to tackle research on inclusion as a cooperative project and made a plea for more accessible research publications; Pat Humphries explained how she tried to enhance the participation the members of a wheelchair sports club in her dissertation research on their perspectives. Aileen Hanrahan put a lot of question marks next to the dominant paradigm of the written format in academic publications and educational material in view of her experience with students with dyslexia. Last but not least Evelien Leyseele presented on her inclusive research project she did for her dissertation together with Marc Callebaut and Dominiek Porreye. Dominiek’s part of the presentation was shown as a pre-recorded video message, whilst Evelien and Marc each took turn in telling the floor about their experiences.

After the presentation there was time left for questions, comments and starting up the dialogue. This led to a small group discussion on topics around language, format, representations and ethics in research. Everything was audio-recorded and will be made available on the website to stimulate further dialogue on these topics.

5th November 2011: Time to end the bias towards inclusion? The new Coalition government has promised to end what it calls ‘the bias towards inclusion’ – a policy agenda since 1997 where disabled children and children with special educational needs have usually been taught in mainstream schools alongside their peers.  As part of the Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Sciences, researchers, Professor Dan Goodley and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole from Manchester Metropolitan University, organised a public debate at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on 5th November, 20011.  Sixty delegates came to debate the question: ‘Time to end the bias towards inclusion?’.  The debate began with a panel of speakers including: Angharad Beckett from Leeds University who spoke about the need for Disability Equality to be part of the school curriculum; Joe Whittaker, from the Alliance from Inclusive Education, who argued that there has been ‘no bias towards inclusion’ in schools and for the need to maintain and increase the momentum towards inclusion in schools and universities; George Newsome, a young person, spoke about his experiences as a disabled pupil;  Linda Derbyshire, a mother of a disabled daughter, explained what had driven her to push for an inclusive education for her daughter; and finally, Hannah Derbyshire, a young person, presented a film about her life in school, on work experience and in her leisure time.

Following questions from the floor, delegates were able to give their point of view in ‘vox pop corner’ where their views were recorded by students from the Media department from MMU.  The vox pops will become part of a short film of the event which will be made available on the Critical Disability Studies@ MMU website: .  The event ended with an opportunity for participants to take part in a behind the scenes ‘hands on’ experience in the museum thanks to curator Sarah Baines.

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, one of the organisers, said: ‘it was great to have so many people at the event engaging with the social sciences.  We are grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council for funding this event and to all the delegates and speakers who made the discussion such an interesting one.’

October 2011: Congratulations to Dr Shaun Grech who succesfully defended his PhD thesis this month.

15th July 2011: Critical Disability Studies engagement with British Psychological Society’s Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group (PSYPAG) – Community Psychology: Michael Richards has been elected as the Community Psychology representative of PSYPAG and will represent this group at meetings and conferences of the British Psychological Society. Click here to find out more.

13th July 2011: Postgraduate Disability Research: A Critical Space to Engage ~ An Interdisciplinary Disability Research conference, University of Warwick, UK: Jenny Slater and Anat Greenstein presented papers and Michael Richards presented this poster  – sponsored by the British Sociological Association (BSA) – as part of a series of events for postgraduate students working in the broad field of disability are invited to present at the conference. For more details visit

7th – 8th July 2011: Disability and the Majority World: Towards a Global Disability Studies: Keynotes were: Myroslava Tataryn, David Hulme, Tsitsi Chataika, Shaun Grech. Our first (free) international conference brought together academics, disability activists, practitioners, organisations, researchers and others from various fields, to discuss a range of key and emerging themes around the complex disability and global South debate. Specifically, the conference provided a much needed inter-disciplinary, critical, supportive and open space to debate, question and challenge dominant knowledges, discourses and practices, while exploring alternatives. We had presenters here from across the globe and papers address disability issues in countries including  Australia, Mozambique, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Pakistan, Malaysia, Ghana, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Haiti, Nepal, Britain, Uganda and Bangladesh. This was a truly global conference. More information on the conference website or contact Shaun Grech on

12th June 2011: Shaun Grech’s work used in ‘The World Report on disability’
In New York this week, the World Health Organization, together with the World Bank, launched the first ever World report on disability.> We are really proud to note that Shaun Grech’s work (PhD researcher in RIHSC) was drawn upon in the report. Well done Shaun and a key example of research having a global impact.

27th-28th May 2011: Critical disability studies @ MMU well represented at Nordic Network on Disability Research, Iceland: Jenny Slater, Katherine Runswick Cole, Dan Goodley and Rebecca Lawthom all presented papers at this conference held in Reykjavik. Dan and Katherine’s trip was part funded by the British Academy. The conference was a brilliant international affair with delegates from not only the Nordic countries but also Japan, India, Canada and the UK to mention only a few. All details of the conference can be found at The conference also gave us opportunity to interview a number of key activists and researchers. Please do check out our media pages for these interviews which will appear on our YouTube Channel. 

6th April 2011: Does Every Child Matter, post-Blair?  They sure do!:
What’s life like for disabled children in England?  A research team based at the Research Institute for Health and Social Change at Manchester Metropolitan University have been finding out about the lives of disabled children and their families over the last two years as part of the project ‘Does Every Child Matter, post-Blair?  The interconnections of disabled childhoods’ funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.On 6th April, 2011, a conference was held at MMU which marked the end of the project but the beginning of the process of sharing the project findings. The day brought together researchers from across the UK with disabled young people, parents/carers, and professionals to share ideas.  Professor Dan Goodley and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole started the day with a presentation of key project findings (for more information visit Dr Louise Holt from Loughborough University presented a paper entitled: Special units for young people with socio-emotional differences: micro-institutions or spaces of inclusion?  After the break, Hannah Derbyshire presented ‘My Story’ – a fun filled story of her life as a young disabled person.  This was followed by Linda Derbyshire’s moving and inspirational talk ‘Mug of a tea cup?’ in which she explained how she had challenged people to include Hannah in school and in the wider community.  After lunch, George Newsome presented ‘Little about me’ in which he asked the audience to think about the ways in which they could challenge people who discriminate against disabled people. Dr Janice McLaughlin, Newcastle University, spoke about mothering a disabled child in her paper Modes of care and mothering: How does citizenship and care intersect in the lives of mothers of disabled children?.  And the day ended with Angharad Beckett from Leeds University talking about ‘Challenging Disabling Attitudes; Building an Inclusive Society’. Making the case for anti-disablist education strategies.

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole said ‘We know that disabled children matter and, like their non-disabled peers, disabled children are participating in their schools and communities in positive ways which challenge the sometimes negative images of disabled children and young people that circulate in the media. But, we also know that many disabled children still face unacceptable barriers to full participation and that they and their parents/carers have to fight to be included.  In a time of ‘Big Society’ and in the context of cuts to public services, it is everyone’s responsibility to challenge policy makers, practitioners and the wider community to expose and then dismantle these barriers for disabled children.  As Linda said in her presentation ‘ Do disabled children matter?  They sure do!’ For more information contact: Visit our media page to download presentations.

16th March 2011: Parenting Disabled Children: Debates in Disability Studies Symposium II: The second event in the series Debates in Disability Studies Symposium at Critical Disability Studies @ MMU was held at Gaskell Campus on 16th March created a space for lively debate about key issues in disability studies and this event focused on parenting disabled children. More than thirty delegates attended the day.  Dan Goodley introduced the debate. Chrissie Rogers (Anglia Ruskin University) presented a paper: ‘I just want some peace in my life’: emotional labour and ‘care’ work in mothering a disabled child ‘ followed by Sara Ryan’s (Oxford University) paper ‘Basically I had a baby and it has completely and utterly affected every area of my life’: saying the unthinkable in disability studies.  In the afternoon Katherine Runswick-Cole (MMU) gave a response paper and the day ended with a plenary session. Presentations are now available at our media page.

26th January 2011: Debates in Disability Studies Symposium I 21st January 2011: Researching the Lives of Disabled Children and Young People: ESRC sponsored seminar series: The ESRC seminar series Researching the Lives of Disabled Children held the latest event in the series at the University of Bristol on 21st January, 2011. Katherine Runswick-Cole, from RIHSC, was invited to present alongside Mary Wickenden (Institute of Child Health, University College London), Michael Clarke (University College London) and David Abbott (Norah Fry, University of Bristol.  Katherine’s presentation was co-authored with Dan Goodley and based on their research from the on-going project “Does Every Child Matte, post-Blair?  The interconnections of disabled childhoods”.  In the presentation, Dan and Katherine focused on disabled children’s potentials drawing on Donna Haraway’s Manifesto for Cyborgs in a paper entitled: ‘Celebrating cyborgs: disabled children and photovoice’. Katherine said ‘I was delighted to be invited to talk about the Post Blair project and to be part of a day that brought together a range of perspectives from childhood studies and disability studies.’ For more information contact:

18th January 2011: Disability Studies: an Interdisciplinary Introduction- new text met with enthusiasm at book launch: The launch of Dan Goodley’s new book Disability Studies: an Interdisciplinary Introduction (London: Sage) was met with great interest and enthusiasm by disabled people, parents/carers, activists, academics and practitioners who gathered together on 18th January, 2011, at Sheffield Hallam University to celebrate the book’s publication.  In his introduction, Professor John Coldron, Assistant Dean, Research Development at Sheffield Hallam, praised the text that contributes to the development of critical disability studies by drawing on feminist, queer and postcolonial theories, saying that this book is ‘more than just an introductory text’.  Dan took the opportunity to thank Rebecca Mallett and Nick Hodge at Sheffield Hallam University for organising the launch and to thank friends and colleagues for their support. To order your copy, please go to: