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The emancipation of visually impaired people in social science research practice

Duckett, Paul and Pratt, Rebekah (2007) The emancipation of visually impaired people in social science research practice. ISSN 0264-6196

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Abstract

In 1999 we began research, funded by the ‘Thomas Pocklington Trust’, to explore the opinions of visually impaired people on visual impairment research. We found people wanted greater inclusion of visually impaired people in such research and participatory, empowering and emancipatory research was a priority for them. We also found, through reviewing the academic literature, that there was a dearth of such work in the field. In this article we revisit the topic to review research that has or has not been conducted since our first study to see if there has been a change in the use of emancipatory methods in the field. We have contextualized our review in a discussion on the field of disability studies and the international social policy context of disability issues. We found a growth of interest and activity in participatory, emancipatory and empowering research in the field of disability research more generally. There was also some indication that the social model of disability has had an impact on national and international social policy. However, our review found that there continues to be a dearth of emancipatory research in relation to visual impairment. The one study we did locate highlighted how participatory methods are not, in our view, necessarily consistent with the epistemological underpinnings of emancipatory methods. We believe the call from within disability studies for the greater use of emancipatory research methods has not been sufficiently realized in the field of visual impairment and more needs to be done to ground politically informed epistemological understandings in visual impairment research if more progress is to be made.

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