A new AHRC funded, Connected Communities programme research project Disability and Community: Dis/engagement, Dis/enfranchisement, Dis/parity and Dissent(the D4D project) will investigate with disabled people the evolving ways in which disabled people express, perform, experience and practice ?community?.

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 Accentuate, Disability Arts Online, Shape and Disability Rights UK). The leadership of the project will be shared between two universities (Exeter and Bristol) and Accentuate, a disabled-led arts organisation. The research team will work in places as diverse as shopping centres, play areas, schools, youth zones, work places and 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 roles disabled people perform within and between communities (their own
and others). They will investigate the evolving ways in which disabled people express, perform, experience and practice being part of a community.

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 (which includes academics from different disciplines, and community co-researchers with expertise in visual and performing arts practice, working in partnership with disabled-led organizations) will undertake research activities organized within 6 streams of work. These streams address:

(1) Now You See Us

This stream will explore issues of integration and marginalization,
focusing on different settings: mainstream schools, youth zones 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 [University of Exeter; University of Bristol; University College London; University of the West of England; Manchester Metropolitan University; Liverpool Hope University; Brighton University; Falmouth University; Wolverhampton University and Glasgow University] 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


For more information, contact:
Natasha Simcock
Project Administrator
North Cloisters
University of Exeter
St Luke?s Campus
Heavitree Road

Telephone: 01392 726409

E-Mail: N.T.Simcock@exeter.ac.uk


Barbara Welch or Stephanie Adamou at Screen South:
Tel.: 01303 259777

E-Mail: barbara.welch@screensouth.org

Short description and links to organisations involved:

Screen South, the home of Accentuate, is a not for profit Creative Development company operating in the wider creative and cultural community.
As well as managing and delivering creative projects Screen South is involved with wide ranging partners to deliver educational and training programmes using various medium including film and other creative practices.
Screen South has had a long involvement in the Heritage sector through its involvement with regional film archives and projects like the Digital Film Archive Programme, delivering the hugely successful Kent in WW1 project and through the Accentuate programme which provided training in improving access and interpretation of Heritage sites in partnership with the Heritage Open Days initiative.

Accentuate, part of Screen South?s portfolio of projects, launched in December 2009 as the 2012 Legacy Programme for the South East inspired by the Paralympic Movement.
Accentuate developed and led a transformational programme of 15 major cultural projects during that time which harnessed the power of art, culture and heritage to engage the wider public with disabled people and disability related issues in order to challenge and shift perceptions. Accentuate continues to challenge perceptions of disability by providing life changing opportunities for deaf and disabled people to participate
and lead within the cultural sector. Accentuate is currently delivering a ground breaking national disability project entitled History of Place that will explore buildings of historic significance for deaf and disabled people from the medieval times to the present day.

The Bristol Robotics Laboratory is the most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK. It is a collaborative partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol, and home to a vibrant community of over 200 academics, researchers and industry practitioners, which lead current thinking in service robotics, intelligent autonomous systems and bio-engineering. An internationally recognised Centre of Excellence in Robotics, it is a unique collaboration that harnesses the collective strengths of its university partners, and brings together the best expertise from industry and the academic community to spearhead the UK?s efforts to be a world leader in modern advanced robotics.

Designability is an engineering and design charity with a passion for creating life-changing assistive technologies.
Designability conducts original research and develop commercial products that meet real needs. They use principles of inclusive design, working with end-users, carers and health professionals to help understand the problem, find a solution and then test it in real life situations.

The New Vic Theatre (Stoke on Trent), Europe?s first purpose-built theatre-in-the-round,is one of the country?s most successful producing theatres and a key part of the region?s cultural life, engaging 150,000 people each year. The New Vic delivers a programme of international-class work made with local audiences in mind,complemented by an award-winning community programme and education work which alone reach around 25,000 people of all ages per year.