Sunday, 27 January 2008

Concepts of Access: Introduction

sharing ideas

This blog tells the story of a group of thirty or so people who met six times to discuss what the term “access” meant to them when thinking about people with learning disabilities.

The meetings were organized by Jane Seale and Melanie Nind at the University of Southampton and funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC).

Jane and Melanie contacted lots of people and groups to ask them if they wanted to take part in the seminars. They contacted people who lived and worked in Southampton as well as people who lived and worked around the country.

Lots of different kinds of people came to the six meetings (we called them seminars). There were researchers, practitioners (for example support workers, occupational therapists and social workers) and of course people with learning disabilities.


We ran six seminars over two years, each seminar talked about a different access topic.

Seminar 1: November 2005: Personal Accounts of Access
Seminar 2: February 2006: Access to Education and Employment

Seminar 3: June 2006: Access to Health, Social Care and Citizenship
Seminar 4: November 2006: Access to Culture, Environment & Human Rights
Seminar 5: February 2007: Access to Community and Friendships
Seminar 6: June 2007: The Past and Future of Access


The main aim of the meetings was to discuss whether we all understood “access” the same way and if we could develop a shared understanding of “access” for people with learning disabilities. We thought that if we can understand “access” better, we might be able to make “access” better.

In each of our six seminars we tried to do different things so that everyone had a chance to have a say and join in. The range of activities included:

  • Listening to speakers and asking questions;
  • Taking part in workshops where there was a chance to do things like take photographs, role play or work in small groups;
  • Sharing experiences in discussion groups or “round-tables”.

Lots of different people gave the presentations, ran the workshops or lead the discussions including people with learning disabilities, practitioners and researchers.

After each seminar we sent out notes and tried using symbols, to help people to read and understand what we had written.

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