Disability Activism in Europe: Young Disabled Activist’s Views and Experiences is a research project that forges new understandings of disability activism, politics, and the resistance practices of young disabled activists across Europe. The project runs from October 2020 until October 2023. It is co-funded by the University of Leeds and the Leverhulme Trust. It is led by Dr Miro Griffiths.
It is the first study to investigate the contemporary position of young disabled activists engaged in activism and social movements across Europe. It will offer insight into young disabled activist’s contributions to disability politics, the barriers limiting their participation, and their vision for the future of disability activism. It will make original contributions to the fields of Disability Studies, Social Movement Studies, Youth Studies, and the Sociology of Resistance. Of particular note, it provides a still rare investigation into disabled people’s social movements.
Why carry out this research?
Disabled activists continue to mobilise in order to promote a shared, political identity; offer radical critiques of existing political and economic arrangements; and engage with legislative and rights-based mechanisms to challenge discrimination. However, the pursuit for disabled people’s emancipation is broad. Aspirations for establishing an inclusive, accessible, and fair society are complex and varied.
Disabled activists pursue different, and sometimes competing, objectives. Some argue for a reformist agenda, whilst others want radical overhaul of the political, economic, social, and cultural arrangements. Activists strategise and employ resistance practices to challenge the discursive and material aspects, within the social world, that perpetuate their marginalisation. Such practices are directed towards networks that produce and sustain disabling barriers but disabled activists also instigate resistance practices to challenge the dominant, and established, perspectives of fellow activists and social movement members.
What does the research involve?
For the reasons above, it is an ideal moment to investigate: (a) young disabled activist’s experiences across a range of cultural and political contexts beyond the UK; and (b) their aspirations for disability politics and inclusive societies across Europe. More specifically, the research explores young disabled activist’s thoughts about: (a) the “problem” of dis/ability; (b) organising society to address disabling barriers; and (c) the role of disabled people’s social movements in pursuing emancipation.
The research addresses the following questions:
- Is disability activism important to young disabled people and if it is important, why?
- How are young disabled people participating in disability activism e.g. via social media or other tactics?
- What are the barriers encountered by young disabled activists when attempting to participate in disabled people’s social movements?
- What is required to ensure their enhanced inclusion and participation within disabled people’s social movements?
- What does a fair, just, and inclusive society mean to young disabled activists and what do they think needs to be resisted/challenged about society if their vision is to be achieved?
- What are their proposed strategies to resist social policies and practices perpetuating disabled people’s marginalisation? Much has been made of young people’s social media activism (e.g. Arab Spring), is this reflected in the proposed strategies of young disabled people across Europe?
- What, if any role, do they perceive for disabled people social movements in developing a fair, just, and inclusive society for all?
Young disabled activists, within the context of this research, is anyone who: self identifies as a disabled person, is within the age range of 18 to 35, and is interested or has experience of disability activism.
There are four phases of the research project:
(1) a survey exploring opportunities and challenges to young disabled activist’s participation in disabled people’s social movements;
(2) interviews exploring opportunities and challenges to young disabled activist’s participation in disabled people’s social movements plus their vision for an inclusive and accessible society;
(3) two “future laboratory” workshops supporting young disabled activists to imagine the role of disabled people’s social movements in achieving such societies;
(4) production of a documentary film exploring youth participation in disabled people’s social movements across Europe.
Are you interested in the research?