People with Disabilities as Border Crossers in the Academic Sector—Chances for Participatory Research

Stephanie Goeke, Dagmar Kubanski


Currently people with disabilities have a small or non-existent presence in research activities that explore the lives of people like them. However, there is a strong tradition of such research in special education and medical research. In this article we introduce various approaches to participatory, emancipatory, inclusive, and transdisciplinary research, and illustrate their origin and characteristics. Based on Pierre BOURDIEU’s theory and principles of field, capital and habitus, reasons are illustrated why people with disabilities are excluded from the academic world, as well as the barriers they have to face. We offer examples from our own research practice. The results of research in German-speaking countries confirm that people with disabilities should be included in the design of research projects, the process of evaluation, and the interpretation of data. Because of that we appeal for a radical change at institutions of higher education and a comprehensive inclusion of people with disabilities in the conception of research projects as well as in the operation of surveys and the evaluation and interpretation of data. Linguistic barriers as well as the balance of power ought to be reviewed. The granting of research funds ought to be contingent upon approved participation of people with disabilities.



participatory research; emancipatory research; inclusive research; transdisciplinary research; women and men with disabilities; Bourdieu


Copyright (c) 2012 Stephanie Goeke, Dagmar Kubanski

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