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Nordic disability policy gains from being anchored in research

  • Funktionshinder
  • Välfärdspolitik

The Nordic Network of Disability Research held the biannual NNDR 13th Research Conference on May 6-8 in Norway, Bergen. 350 researchers, policy makers, activists and practitioners from numerous countries met to discuss the latest research within the field.

Tom Shakespeare, world known within the disability studies, believes it is very important that the disability policy is anchored in research.

- Research can contribute to that policy becomes better grounded in evidence. What we know really works, Shakespeare said. The interest in political advocacy work could also become stronger when the proposals refer to research. We can use research to demonstrate the socio-political successes and also failures, for example in the case of personal assistance: What is necessary to achieve an independent life?

Discussions on future Nordic cooperation

In connection to the conference, a meeting was organized between the members of the Council for Nordic Cooperation on Disability and the board members of the NNDR. The purpose was to discuss possible future collaborations.

Inge Storgaard Bonfils, president of the Disability Council in 2015 and a member of the NNDR board, also talked about the importance of the disability policy being firmly grounded in research.

- It is a great strength for the Nordic Disabilities Council if our recommendations, to the extent possible, refer to research. This could be facilitated by good forms of cooperation with relevant research environments and the Nordic research network, Storgaard Bonfils said.

Possible Nordic collaborations in disability studies

The prerequisites to design a Nordic Master's program in disability studies have been discussed for some time, within the NNDR.

One of the challenges is to find funding for cooperation. Ongoing programs, of which some could be possible for funding or co-funding disability research collaboration projects, were presented.

Simo Vehmas, Finland's first Professor of Disability Studies and chair of NNDR, was positive after the meeting with the Disability Council.

- There is potential for more positive impact, in the nearest future perhaps something like a Nordic master program, but there is also a need for more comparative studies on the disability area, Vehmas said.

Communication campaign on disability policy

Disability Council members gave input to a forthcoming communication campaign on disability policy.

A working group consisting of Inge Storgaard Bonfils, Pirkko Mahlamäki (Secretary General at the disability organization Vammaisfoorumi in Finland) and Ola Balke (Agency for Participation in Sweden) will develop a plan for further work.

- Something that all Council members wish would be possible to conceive is an overview of the research environments that work with disabilities, Storgaard Bonfils said. This has been done before, for example by the Danish SFI, but included only the Danish, Swedish and Norwegian environments, and also Great Britain. Maybe we could start out from that report and supplement.



The research network NNDR (new window)

The NNDR 13th Research Conference 2015 (new window)

The Council for Nordic Cooperation on Disability (in Swedish)

SFI's report "Aktuel Scandinavian and britisk handicapping research" (new window)

Tom Shakespeare's "Disability Research today: International Perspectives"

Collage - 1. Tom Shakespeare 2. Simo Vehmas and Inge Storgaard Bonfils 3. The Disablities Council and NNDR board members.

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