Big Society, Disability and Civil Society Research

Website for ESRC research project 'Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society'

30th July, 2015: Equalities & Human Rights Commission visits disability academics at MMU

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On July 30th, the team had the pleasure of entertaining the disability committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission at Brooks Building, Manchester Metropolitan University. They visited to find out more about the disability research across MMU so a host of expertise around speech and language provision and other disability research featured. We welcomed Professor Swaran Singh and Professor Anna Lawson who hold academic posts at Warwick and Leeds respectively, whilst undertaking roles within EHRC.   Rebecca Lawthom, Professor of Community Psychology and Co-Investigator on Economic and Social Research Council funded project Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society represented the project (while Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow Disability Studies and Psychology and other members of the team were busy in Sydney – see blog posts here for more information: and Julie Marshall, Reader in Communication Disability and Development, met with them.

The disability committee of the EHRC are clearly focused on disability but noted much overlap with other protected characteristics. Indeed, the continued existence of the disability committee reflects the importance of disability as a protected characteristic within the EHRC. A review of the committee’s work in 2014 noted the need for more stakeholder engagement and MMU was identified as an area of excellence in disability research, a key feature of the research at MMU is the central role played by stakeholders outside the university.

The visitors were interested in three broad questions:

what were the important issues facing disabled people today?

how were disabled students faring in times of shifting funds?

how could research be made accessible to disabled people?

We shared our current findings and briefing cards (available to download here:, which they were impressed with. We also talked about expertise across our faculty in AAC and speech therapy in underserved countries. Discussions also focused on the #JusticeforLB campaign (x and the proposed changes to the law to support the community inclusion of disabled people the Justice for lb campaign and the proposed member’s bill (

This meeting marked the start of an ongoing relationship. We will be looking at the EHRC website and keeping our eyes on the work undertaken. The commission presents evidence to government so capitalizing on this channel will be useful for impact work and more importantly for the disabled people we work alongside.

Rebecca Lawthom


Author: Katherine RC

Katherine is Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology at the Research Institute for Health and Social Change at Manchester Metropolitan University

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