In 1976 the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) launched their manifesto which stated “nothing about us without us.” This kick-started the disability movement in the United Kingdom and contributed to the development of the social model of disability. Mike Oliver (2002, p.14), one of the pioneers of the social model of disability, argued that, epistemologically, research must reject the notion that is investigating the world; rather it should replace it with an understanding that “research produces the world.”In testament to this and the disability movement, the most important things to me as I go through my PhD is ensuring that my work maximises participation and inclusion and that the participants take an active role in the research. This notion has strongly influenced the way I am trying to go about my research, and accessibility is a key issue for me.
The young people I research with have been identified as having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). They have difficulties with speech and language communication, meaning that researching in typical ways might not be particularly accessible or useful. Ethically and morally, it is integral that my participants truly understand the purpose of the research and are engaged and enthusiastic about participating. The research explores how the young people view and describe themselves, as well as how young people experience belongingness in different educational settings. In order to research this, I co-construct narratives with the young people using different visual methods for elicitation.
I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the best way to communicate the purpose of my research to the young people. I have decided to use my animation skills to make the research, concepts, and ethics explicit. For example, part of the animation explores the importance of being able to say yes and no, or choosing to be silent. I have used animation combined with a narrator and also text to create an accessible video. The text that I have used is a symbol and text language called Widgit and it is often used in special schools. The symbols are designed to visually convey the concept of the word to help readers and non-readers access meaning. Increasing understanding through making text accessible is a key way to helping make my research more inclusive.
If any readers have the time, I would encourage them to click on the link below and take a few moments to watch the animation; I would be grateful for any feedback!
Hannah Ware is a second year PhD student at the Faculty of Education researching alongside young people identified as having special educational needs and/or disabilities. You can follow her on Twitter at @ or email her at email@example.com.