Skip to main content

European networking in disability studies

The purpose of this project is to develop greater understanding and exchange between existing networks of researchers in European countries as a basis for future large-scale collaboration. This project was funded by a grant from the University of Leeds Fund for International Research Collaboration. The project is directed at Leeds by Mark Priestley.


Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study (involving research and training) that addresses disability as a human rights issue and supports the full participation and equality of disabled people. Its models and theories (e.g. the social model of disability) construct the situation of disabled people as a social problem, with social causes. Its methods promote the participation of disabled people and their organizations.

Critical Disability Studies is well established throughout the world, with research centres, international conferences and an extensive research literature. There are distinctive Masters or PhD programmes in the USA, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. The American Society for Disability Studies (SDS) was founded in 1986, and provides extensive networking opportunities for researchers there. There are also disability research networks in some European countries and regions.

The rationale for networking at the European level is to promote critical disability research throughout the European Research Area. There have been several attempts to establish European networking in disability studies (e.g. from a meeting in Belgium in 2000 to the creation of a new European Journal of Disability Research in 2007). In a submission to DG Research in 2005, the European Disability Forum emphasised the “need for the creation of a network of academic experts in the field” to “assist in EU policy development and data gathering”.

The project involves meetings between European researchers and the preparation of collaborative proposals for future research.

Papers available online

An outline and presentation slides are available from the first meeting