Investigating Disabled People’s and their Organizations’ Involvement in Decision Making

How can a Bristol Disability Human Rights Network be established by linking academics in Law to members of the Disabled community?

What did the project involve? 

Over the course of three months, the team held a workshop, a creative ‘sandpit’, and created an advocacy toolkit for Disabled people to advocate for themselves, their participation in decision-making at the local level.  

 The workshop invited a forum of Disabled Bristolians to discuss their own and their organisations’ involvement in decision-making at the local authority level. To frame these discussions, the researchers provided information about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD 2006), which aims to ensure Disabled people are fully included in society and included in decision-making which concerns their lives.  

A few weeks after the workshop, the team held a sandpit event involving members from the Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC), the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies, the aforementioned Forum, and Bristol City Council. Together, they explored new ways of effectively consulting and involving Disabled peoples in local authority decision-making.  

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • The team was led by Dr Emily Kakoullis  (University of Bristol School of Law). As a HRIC team member, she brought expertise on CRPD 2006. 
  • Joining her from the HRIC was Professor Judy Laing (University of Bristol School of Law). 
  • Professor Val Williams, who researches Disability, Policy and Practice (Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies), brought expertise on developing co-produced research with ongoing partnerships and local organisations (including the West of England Centre for Inclusive Living) and national organisations (like Disability Rights UK).  
  • Dr. Victoria Mason-Angelow (Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies), brought further expertise in working with local and national organisations. 
  • Laura Welti, Manager (Bristol Disability Equality Forum), represented a pan-impairment, Deaf and Disabled people’s organisation. She also subscribes to the Deaf identity of a cultural and linguistic minority. As well as her lived experience of decision-making affecting Disabled people’s lives, she brought expertise in both responding to invitations and, and initiating, co-production. 

What were the results?

The resulting advocacy toolkit was created to relay complex legal information to Disabled people and their organisations. Written in Plain Language and with visual aids, it provides readers with all information necessary to understand the CRPD and the ways they can ensure their voices are heard in local authority decision-making. Crucially, it also advises readers on what to do if they think the CRPD is not being adhered to. 

Click on this link if you’d like to see the Investigating Disabled People’s and their Organizations’ Involvement in Decision Making_Toolkit (PDF. 1054kB) produced as part of the project.

The project inspired a host of different activities, not least the ESRC-funded project ‘Getting Things Changed’. A particularly large grant secured by Professor Williams, it was co-produced with Disability Rights UK (an umbrella network of Disabled People’s organisations). The project came to the end of its funded period in 2018, which was also the date of retirement of Val Williams. However, there have been continued outputs from the whole team, with a total of 18 published peer-reviewed papers, and many accessible and video-based products, in the style of the lay guide produced for the original Brigstow project.  

The strand of work which was led by Disability Rights UK specifically looked at examples of co-production of decisions between Disabled People’s organisations and local/health authorities. The project is cited in the recent English Government Disability Strategy and you can find its latest paper here:  Val Williams, Marina Gall, Victoria Mason-Angelow, Stuart Read & Joseph Webb (2021): Misfitting and social practice theory: incorporating disability into the performance and (re)enactment of social practices