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Social History of Learning Disability Conference 2019

16th and 17th July 2019

The Open University, Milton Keynes

‘Belonging and Not Belonging’


The Call for Papers for our 2019 conference is now open! The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Belonging and Not Belonging’. More details can be found on the ‘Ideas for Presentations’ document and in this short video. This year’s conference marks 25 years of the SHLD group, and 50 years of The Open University, so it is a special one!

Please submit your idea for a presentation (or ‘abstract’) by Friday 1st March 2019 to: Lee Woodham at or by post to the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA.

Please refer to our Top Tips for making abstracts and presentations more accessible. 

Top tips for making abstracts

Here in the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, based in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at The Open University, we are committed to researching and disseminating learning disability history in ways which are inclusive of people with learning disabilities, their carers, relatives and advocates.

At the heart of the group's approach, from its beginnings in 1994, is a recognition that people with learning disabilities are experts on their own lives, and have historical knowledge, viewpoints and skills to contribute. Such an ethos is reflected in our inclusive conferences, publications, research projects and close collaborations with a variety of learning disability organisations, including advocacy groups. The Research Group is internationally recognised, and has fostered partnerships with universities and advocacy organisations across Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

We also offer advice, support and training in inclusive research methodologies, especially those which combine oral history, biography and archival research, and in writing funding proposals for social history of learning disability and related heritage projects.

Pioneering inclusive methodologies, we have influenced learning disability policy and practice across the whole spectrum of health and social care agencies and personnel, from front line practitioners to senior managers, board members and policy makers to people with learning disabilities themselves. Our work has helped bring about positive change in people's lives, including those with high support needs. We have supported the emerging learning disability advocacy movement and the development of person-centred services. Establishment of inclusive research networks and conferences has enabled people with learning disabilities to publicise findings and enabled identification of research topics of key importance to disabled people, their families and practitioners.

Aspects of the Social History of Learning Disability Research Group's work were recognised as Good Practice by the Department of Health in 2013.

Latest news

Celebrating 100 years of Learning Disability Nursing in the United Kingdom

To celebrate 100 years of Learning Disability Nursing in the United Kingdom we (Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) and Learning Disability Nursing team at the Open University are inviting people to submit pictures and memories they have of Learning Disability Nurses.

The pictures and memories could be about nurses who have supported the person or their family member, they could be pictures and memories about friends or families, or even be about themselves if they are a learning disability nurse.

The pictures and memories may include examples where the nurse has been part of the persons journey to ‘Belonging’ and overcoming their ‘not belonging’.

The 100 pictures and memories will be shown on the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) conference on the 16th and 17th July 2019 at The Open University, Milton Keynes - and will remain available to view via the SHLD website.

To share your pictures and memories, please download the information letter and the consent form below