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Conference 2018

Advocacy and the social history of learning disability:
Family and self-advocacy

10 and 11 July 2018
The Open University, Milton Keynes

Registration is now open

We are delighted to announce that the next Social History of Learning Disability Conference will be held at The Open University in Milton Keynes on 10th and 11th July 2018.

The theme of the conference is Advocacy and the social history of learning disability: Family and Self-Advocacy.

Please click here to register and find out more about the conference.

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

2018 Conference

The Call for Papers for our 2018 conference is now open! The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Advocacy and the social history of learning disability: Family and Self-Advocacy’. More details can be found on the Call for papers (pdf).

Please submit your accessible abstract by Monday 12th March 2018 to:
Lee Woodham
by email at
or by post to
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 (pdf).