Research looks into ‘belonging’ for disabled people

24 July 2019

Professors Robyn Longhurst and Lynda Johnston
Professors Robyn Longhurst (left) and Lynda Johnston (right) were part of a collaborative research project on why and where disabled people feel they ‘belong’.

Understanding why and where disabled people feel they belong is the focus of a joint research report launched last night between the University of Waikato, the Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) and advocacy and disability rights organisation Imagine Better.

Waikato University professors Lynda Johnston and Robyn Longhurst, part of the research and experts in geographies of inclusion and diversity, say the research is unique in that it focuses on people’s feelings about their everyday spaces and places.

“It’s very clear from our research that the intersection of disability, place and identity matters a great deal to disabled people’s feelings of belonging,” says Professor Johnston.

Dr Carey-Ann Morrison from Imagine Better and Dr Esther Woodbury from DPA interviewed 15 disabled people and families of disabled people in a bid to understand more about their experiences of belonging and not belonging in different places.

Professor Johnston, along with Dr Morrison and Dr Woodbury, presented the research last night at the Spaces of Belonging event in Wellington which was attended by the Minister for Social Development and Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni and the Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.

Dr Morrison, a parent to a young son with Down syndrome, says the research acknowledges the expertise disabled people and their families hold on their own lives and community needs.

“The research is community-driven. Disabled people and their families spoke about issues that were important to them and their lives. We need more research that prioritises hearing directly from disabled people and families,” says Dr Morrison.

Dr Woodbury is a disabled researcher and activist. She says by making the concept of ‘belonging’ a focus in their research, they can challenge the ‘noteworthiness’ of disabled people being physically present in everyday spaces.

"In this research we spoke about being in spaces where we are constantly reminded that we are different or unwelcome. We found that many disabled people and parents responded by forming relationships and creating communities where they felt at ease and a sense of ownership,” she says.

The report also highlights the need for greater attention around public spaces, schools, workplaces, dating and social spaces, and accessibility.

"We’re excited to share the first phase of this research, and we will continue to work with and for disabled people in Aotearoa,” says Professor Johnston.

Latest stories

Related stories

Award winning University of Waikato Tauranga CBDCampus

Triple win for University of Waikato’s Tauranga CBD Campus at the property awards

The University of Waikato’s Tauranga CBD campus was celebrated at the 2019 Bay of Plenty…

Waikato scientists ranked as some of most-influential in the world

23 Waikato scientists appear in a new international database of the 100,000 most influential scientists…

Armon Tamatea

University of Waikato secures more than $6m in MBIE research funding

The University of Waikato has received more than $6 million in research funding from the…

Dr Lee Streeter

Waikato researcher given ‘Kudos’ for big problem

Dr Lee Streeter has solved a problem. But not just any problem – one that’s…

UoW Engineering

Top researcher recognised for highly cited work

Waikato researchers converged in Melbourne recently for the 22nd International Conference on Composite Materials (ICCM),…

Kudos 2019

Time-of-flight technology and internet behaviour secure Kudos Awards for top researchers

Two University of Waikato researchers have been recognised for their scientific prowess at the Kudos…

Dr Chris Tanner (NIWA), Associate Professor Maui Hudson, Tim Manakau

Celebrating Lakes Resilience

A four-year MBIE-funded research programme led by the University’s Environmental Research Institute and School of…

Todd Henry

Visual masters for prized photographer

Award-winning photographer and filmmaker Todd Henry has just submitted his masters thesis at the University…


Public support for union default

A new survey of nearly 1500 New Zealanders shows the majority support a union default…

Brendan and co

New funding for Kaumātua study

Waikato professor to lead $2.5 million Kaumātua study with a mana motuhake focus.

Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand

Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand elected as new Chancellor

The University of Waikato Council today elected Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand GNZM QSO as…

Ethan Flintoft receiving Award from NZGS

Ethan’s our new poster boy

The research work of a first-year civil engineering student at Waikato University has earned him…