The insider view: tackling disabling practices in higher education institutions

Wendy Merchant, Stuart Read, Stephen D'Evelyn, Caroline Miles, Val Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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This paper reports on research about the experiences of disabled staff members in UK universities, drawing on eleven semi-structured interviews with disabled staff in one university, alongside a group auto ethnography conducted by the first four authors. Disability is generally considered to be exclusively an issue for students, both in practice and in the literature. By contrast, taking a social practice approach, we focused on the barriers faced by disabled employees, both overt and hidden. We found that disability was still viewed as a medical problem, and that disabled members of staff faced considerable extra labour in organising their own supports. We were often made to feel that we were unwanted and that we were ‘misfits’ in the institution. This paper contributes to theory by showing how social practices can become exclusionary, and how interconnections between practices matter. We discuss ways in which ableism, based on the ideal of ‘individual’ excellence, creates barriers for disabled staff. In the global context of Higher Education, the increasing marketization of universities in higher income countries creates a difficult climate for the values of inclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalHigher Education
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2019

Structured keywords

  • SPS Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies


  • disability
  • British Higher Education
  • diversity
  • equality
  • social practices

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