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Including a new generation?

Using qualitative logitudinal methdos to understand disabled people's lives in the 21st century

This project is now completed and the findings published in the book Disability and Social Change: private lives and public policies, by Sonali Shah and Mark Priestley.


The social inclusion of disabled people is an issue of current social importance, for politicians, policy makers, employers and educators. The aim of the research was to inform these public debates by explaining how recent changes in social attitudes, policies and practices affect the life choices of a new generation of disabled people and the lives they lead. Its particular emphasis is on change over time.

The research used qualitative longitudinal methods to actively involve three generational cohorts of disabled people (born in the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s). There was a particular focus on the youngest of these cohorts, who are the first generation of disabled people in Britain to reach adulthood in an era of non-discrimination legislation. Their experiences, and life choices, were compared with those of their non-disabled peers, and with the biographical accounts of previous generational cohorts.

The analysis links these generational experiences to time lines of social and political change affecting disabled people in Britain. The research built on the researchers' theoretical work and the ESRC Methods Node and 'Timescapes' projects at the host institution.