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SHLD Conference 2017 - Doing research on the social history of learning disability: learning lessons

20th and 21st July 2017, The Open University, Milton Keynes

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 20th and 21st July 2017.

The theme of the conference is 'Doing research on the social history of learning disability: Learning Lessons'.

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


The Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group runs annual open conferences, in which academics, staff, parents and people with learning disabilities construct history together.

We began running these conferences in 1994 and since 1999 they have been held annually, although information for some of these early conferences is not available on this website. You will, however, find information on most of the later events within the Conferences menu. Our conferences have been developed as 'inclusive spaces' where everyone has a contribution. People with learning disabilities, sometimes working alongside carers or academics, are core contributors to the conferences. They share stories, memories and viewpoints, together with others who have a stake in better understanding history. Topics covered have included institutions, community care, advocacy, resistance, relationships, staff, families, and health care. People with learning disabilities also take on co-chairing responsibilities, which enable these events to run smoothly.

SHLD conferences: messages from research and experiences

The short video below, made at the SHLD conference in 2013, will give you a flavour of the views of some of the participants. Many of the views expressed here come from personal, lived experience which is one of the hallmarks of the annual conference.

Previous conferences (and seminars)

For details of our previous conferences (along with the occasional seminar) please click on the titles below. This will allow you to view the conference programme, abstracts and (where available) audio and video recordings. Please note that wherever possible we provide alt text to ensure that images used in abstracts and PowerPoint presentations are accessible to those using screen reading software. However, because the responsibility for providing alt text rests with the authors of presentations and abstracts we cannot always guarantee full accessibility.

Conference 2016 - Exploring learning disability: why history? (two-day conference)

Conference 2015 - Biographies, life stories and life histories (two-day conference)

Conference 2014 - Exploring positive practice in learning disability: past and present (two-day conference)

Conference 2013 - Avoiding more Winterbourne Views: what can we learn from history? (one-day conference)

Conference 2012 - Health and learning disability: past, present and future (two-day conference)

Conference 2011 - Friendships, networks and learning disabilities: friends' stories and stories about friends (two-day conference)

Conference 2010 - Staff stories and stories about staff (two-day conference)

Conference 2009 - Families, history and learning difficulties (two-day conference)

Conference 2008 - Spending time (one-day conference)

Seminar 2008 - Spending time in institutions (one-day seminar)

Conference 2007 - Learning disability, relationships and sexuality: past and present (one-day conference)

Seminar 2007 - Researching institutional histories (one-day seminar)

Conference 2006 - Public and private lives (one-day conference)

Conference 2005 - The stories people tell: biography and learning disability (one-day conference)

Conference 2004 - Work in the lives of people with learning disabilities: 'A millstone or a milestone?' (one-day conference)

Conference 2002 - The history of advocacy and self-advocacy (one-day conference)

Conference 2001 - Testimonies of resistance in learning disability history (one-day conference)

Video testimonies from speakers at the 2001 conference

Conference 1998 - Confronting language: labels in the history of learning disabilities (one-day conference)