Disability is not Measles. New Research Paradigms in Disability

Edited by Marcia H. Rioux and Michael Bach .

$28 (Canadian) + $4.20 p&p

ISBN 1 895070 34 1

Don’t be put off by the title, or the language. What it is
saying is that because disability is socially constructed, then to
research it as if it were a biomedical condition (like measles) is
not appropriate.

The book demonstrates that research needs to step back and
question the methods and the theory behind the methods that are
being used in the field of disability research. In other words, ‘we
must question how the questions are being asked’.

It argues that disability research originally focused on the
state and workings of the human body. It looked ultimately for a
cure but settled for treatment or ‘improvement’.

As theories and practices of rehabilitation developed research
opened up to address service delivery, another incomplete

While there have been shifts in the research agenda, the
domination of ‘experts’ and their traditional methods have changed

A focus on the social, economic, political and legal
construction of disability is necessary to give disability research
an appropriate basis for a critical perspective.

Research and research methods need to take into account the
day-to-day reality of our lives – from our perspective, not from
that of the researcher.

There are also ethical, even legal, considerations – for
example, studying the genetic make-up of people from non-white
racial groups is ‘sceptically viewed’, as is research into ‘genetic
engineering that could be used to prevent female children’.

The book argues that disability ‘ought not to provide a
rationale for research that is unacceptable for other groups in

The ‘underlying assumption of the lack of status’ of disabled
people has influenced research and research methods.

The social model of disability has come from disabled people’s
own analysis, and the work being done by contributors to this book
builds on the social model. Hopefully the stage is set for fruitful

Lorraine Gradwell is the chairperson of the Greater Manchester
Coalition of Disabled People and works for Healthy Manchester

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