The D4D Project

Disability and Community: Dis/engagement, Dis/enfranchisement, Dis/parity and Dissent (the D4D project)

We are delighted that Accentuate is a lead partner on a major four year research programme which will investigate with disabled people the evolving ways in which disabled people express, perform, experience and practice 'community'.

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The project team brings together disabled and non disabled academics from a range of disciplines, with disabled artists, writers and performers, and with community partners (including Shape, DAO and Disability Rights UK).  The leadership of the project will be shared between two universities (Exeter and Bristol) and Accentuate.

The research team will work in places as diverse as schools, shopping centres, play areas, work places, arts festivals. The work will involve and be informed by the knowledge and lived experiences of disabled people. Key to the project will be research with disabled people as co-researchers. The team will explore the role disabled people have within communities (their own and others).

D4D will learn from participating communities with the aim of better understanding the ways in which disabled people experience community, and the various forces and contexts (e.g. play, education, medicine, new technology, digital media) have shaped and continue to influence the experiences of communities of disabled people. The project will build understanding, generate opportunities for connections, solidarity, resilience and activism, and support an increased sense of agency and empowerment among participants, sharing knowledge and professional development, and creating new spaces for dialogue and action.

To investigate these questions, the project team will undertake research activities organized within 6 streams of work.  Esther Fox, the Head of the Accentuate Programme will be leading work-stream 5 in collaboration with Bristol Robotics Laboratory, The Institute of Education and The New Vic Theatre, Stoke.  The 6 work streams are:

(1) Now You See Us  This stream will explore issues of integration and marginalization, focusing on two settings: mainstream schools and the work-place. We will explore lived experience of ‘inclusion’, looking at issues of participation, visibility / invisibility, resilience and resistance of disabled adults and youngsters in these contexts. The research will consider the ambiguous relationships between inclusion and exclusion through ethnographic studies, and investigate ways of promoting agency and integration through creative expression

 (2) Catch me if you can – Participating through Play  Play, technology and inclusion - academics from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory will trial the robots and investigate how a powered mobility device called Wizzybug, developed by Designability, helps disabled children play more easily with friends.

 (3) Electric Bodies Members of the Disability Arts community will examine the origins, development and future of the Disability Arts community. In particular, this will involve exploring the tensions within ‘identity arts’ movements regarding issues of affiliation and community.

(4) Speaking from the body Exploring embodiment through walking, craft and performance, this strand will explore how disabled and chronically ill participants form, experience and express alternative community, as well as how they manage their (dis)placement and disqualification by mainstream society. This research will also support disabled communities critically respond to clinical practice.

(5) Institutionalised, Homogenised, Vaporised  In this strand, arts based research will drive an investigation of past, present and future disabled communities. In particular, through the creation and exhibition of an interactive art-piece, ‘Evolution’, mainstream audiences will be asked to consider disability perspectives on such matters as eugenics and genetic screening.

(6) Playful Bodies, Technology and Community In this work stream we investigate ‘science fictions’ and the relationships between technology, popular culture and the body. We will be working with players, artists and online communities, while drawing on digital game studies and critical disability studies approaches. Disability communities’ critical perspectives on mainstream popular culture will be explored.

These six work streams will be augmented by two further streams, the first involving ethics and reflexivity to learn lessons for increasing meaningful participation in research, and the second will provide a forum for skill sharing and knowledge exchange across all streams, and work to maximize impact across and beyond the academic.

In addition to a regularly updated project website, D4D outputs will include academic papers, exhibitions, short films and created craft and art objects, performance poetry and animation, an Alternate Reality Game (or ARG), performances and playful, interactive art installations. These outputs will foreground the voices, knowledge and insights of the study’s participants.

This innovative project is delivered through a partnership between universities [Exeter University; University of Bristol; UCL; Bristol Robotics Laboratory at UWE; Manchester Metropolitan, Liverpool Hope] and community partners, including disabled people’s organisations [Accentuate; Disability Arts Online; The Edward Lear Foundation; SHAPE; WECIL; Disability Rights UK; Designability]; arts organisations [New Vic Theatre in Stoke; The Misfits]; community groups and campaigning organisations.  It is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of their Connecting Communities Programme.

Accentuate has welcomed and nurtured links with the academic community since our launch in 2009.  Accentuate first developed a relationship with Dr Tom Shakespeare as one of our “Ambassadors” and subsequently commissioned him to devise a short animated lecture assessing the cultural legacy for deaf and disabled people one year after the Paralympic Games.

To compliment this lecture and to provide a more robust analysis of the cultural sector for deaf and disabled people in 2013, Accentuate worked with DEMOS to produce the report “One Year On.”   We also commissioned a literary review which particularly considered employment opportunities for deaf and disabled people within the cultural sector.

This work has laid the foundations to engagement with Academic inquiry and we are excited to be a co-investigator on the D4D programme.

Deaf and disabled people, employment, and the Cultural sector: A Literature Review


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