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Holmen, Pirsenteret


Cecilia Bygdell

Department of Economic and Social Geography, Uppsala University, Sweden

Topic: Taking part of rural life: disability and participation

Keywords: disability, disability narratives, participation, bodily variations


Full participation in society is one of the overall rights in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In this presentation I discuss participation in a rural society based on an ongoing study of living with physical or cognitive impairments in Swedish rural areas.

In line with Hammel et al (2008) participation is regarded as a subjective experience. Thus taking part in activities in itself cannot determine whether the individual is an active participant in society. Rather it requires feelings of inclusion and meaningfulness, and must be valued from the individuals perspective.

Participation in society is exemplified by individual experiences of being part of social networks, the labor force and taking part of political dialogues in the local. Participation can take place in contexts open for all inhabitants in the community, but takes for some place in arenas open for individuals with an impairment. Thus participation might be more or less integrated in society as a whole.

Crucial for both social networks and political advocacy are disability associations. Through an impairment, disability association become available and can give access to context where disabilities are the expected. The associations offer social activities, continuing education about disabilities and also political conversations with official and politicians in the local community.

Participation in the labor force is not necessarily the same as being employed in the open labor market. As much employments on the open labor market assumes an abled body, we must include various forms of work targets, wage forms and variations in working hours when considering experiences of participation in working life.

The overall conclusion is that bodily variations create different opportunities, abilities and expectations for how participation is understood and valued. We cannot have the same measure of participation for all individuals but must allow the content in participation to vary for different individuals according to prerequisites without being hierarchical.

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