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Disability and social change

Disability and social change: Private lives and public policies

Sonali Shah
Mark Priestley
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  • Book Info
    Disability and social change
    Book Description:

    Combining critical policy analysis with biographical accounts, this book provides a socio-historical account of the changing treatment of disabled people in Britain from the 1940s to the present day. It asks whether life has really changed for disabled people and shows the value of using biographical methods in new and critical ways to examine social and historical change over time.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-788-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The second half of the 20th century, perhaps more than any other period, produced great changes in how we think about and respond to disability as a public issue in Britain. Not only was there a proliferation of new public policies but also an awakening of political consciousness about disability. But what of those who lived their lives through this period? How do the lives of young disabled people today compare with those who grew up in previous generations? In short, has life changed? This book seeks answers to these questions by using a combination of biographical experiences and historical...

  2. ONE Policy, history and biography
    (pp. 5-22)

    This chapter sets the scene for the book’s main themes, by examining the challenge of linking biography with history in terms of disability policy in 20th-century Britain. As explained in the Introduction, some of the key areas of policy that have affected people’s personal lives are explored in more detail in subsequent chapters, including areas such as the provision of public health care, education and employment. The main purpose of this chapter is to provide a context for reading the individual biographical experiences related in Chapter Two.

    The chapter begins by briefly outlining some of the key change dimensions in...

  3. TWO Telling stories
    (pp. 23-46)

    As explained in Chapter One, this book examines how life has changed for young people with physical impairments in England over three generations, and how public policies have affected this. However, as (Priestley, 2001, p 240) points out, ‘life can be a complex, often messy, business and people’s life experiences do not fit neatly into academic disciplines or theoretical models’. The focus here is on those real lives rather than the constructed boundaries of policy making. The chapter introduces the three generational cohorts of disabled people who contributed their life stories. These are illustrated by six vignettes (summary life stories),...

  4. THREE Keeping it in the family
    (pp. 47-68)

    The stories summarised in Chapter Two showed just how important it was for people to be able to draw on the resilience or resources of those closest to them at key turning points in their lives. The same stories showed what can happen to people’s lives in the absence of such support. This chapter examines experiences of family life, using examples from the three generations to illustrate how social trends and public policies have affected choices and opportunities for young disabled people to develop and sustain kinship relationships. The discussion identifies a broad distinction between two competing life trajectories –...

  5. FOUR Living with medicine
    (pp. 69-92)

    The examples in Chapters Two and Three drew attention to claims about the influence of public medicine in the private lives of young people with physical impairments. The stories suggested at least three kinds of influence. Medical diagnosis and opinion appeared to frame future life expectations or trajectories, even from birth. Medical treatment regimes appeared to shape early life experiences, particularly in relation to hospital stays. Medical authority appeared to be significant at key turning points, particularly in choosing schools. The stories also raised interesting questions about medicine and social change. To what extent have life expectations been shaped by...

  6. FIVE Learning about life
    (pp. 93-118)

    This chapter examines experiences of education, particularly schooling. The main focus, as in other chapters, is to examine the impact of public policies on private lives in the context of change over time. The stories in Chapter Two, the accounts of family life in Chapter Three and the discussion of medicalisation in Chapter Four all drew attention to the significance of educational policies and practices in young people’s private lives. Across the three generations, the separation of children from their families and friends was perhaps the most obvious example. The complex policy relationship between health and educational provision highlighted the...

  7. SIX Working for a living
    (pp. 119-146)

    The preceding chapters have emphasised life choices and chances in childhood. They also illustrated how childhood transitions can establish trajectories that affect adult careers. This chapter turns to work and employment as a key factor in transitions to adulthood, and as a key preoccupation of disability policies since the 1940s. It is perhaps worth noting at the outset that few in the youngest generation (born in the 1980s) had yet entered the adult labour market, either because they were still in full-time education or because they had not found paid employment. Conversely, the long work experience of some in the...

  8. SEVEN Living with ‘disability’
    (pp. 147-174)

    Throughout this book the main focus has been to show how interactions with changing public policies and institutions affected people’s private lives, and how individuals and their families navigated life choices in policy contexts. The two preceding chapters illustrated specific developments with reference to education and employment. This final chapter takes a step back to review, more holistically, how disability revealed itself in people’s lives over time and how this impacted on the negotiation of personal identity. It shows how public policies and institutions play an important part in structuring the social spaces, relationships and life course expectations that come...

  9. EIGHT Conclusion
    (pp. 175-184)

    The preceding seven chapters have covered a wide-ranging exploration of the ways in which changes in public policies and institutions, coupled with changes in civil society, have impacted on the private lives of young people with physical impairments since the 1940s. This exploration was intimately informed by a critical engagement with biographical narratives generated from life history interviews with people from three generational cohorts, who experienced childhood and the transition to adulthood in different historical times. The method of analysis sought to engage with these narratives as a stimulus to pose questions about parallel developments in public policies and institutions....