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Biography - Jan Walmsley

I took a history degree longer ago than I care to admit. On arrival at the Open University in 1985 I was working on a learning disability course (Mental Handicap: Patterns for Living) and began to look for a historical perspective. Finding none, I set out to try to construct one (with wonderful colleagues in the OU and beyond). I am a founder member of the SHLD Group with Dorothy Atkinson. I am proud of what the group has achieved in developing the history of learning disabilities as an area of scholarship.

I am Visiting Professor in the History of Learning Disabilities at The Open University – probably the only one in the world! I have many publications, many of which relate to the history of learning disabilities. Currently I run my own business (Jan Walmsley Associates) which specializes in teaching and research in health and social care.

I specialize in Heritage Projects involving people with learning disabilities, staff and carers.

I remain an active and committed member of the SHLD Group and regularly undertake assignments on behalf of the group.

I am particularly proud of my work with self advocacy groups to write inclusive histories.

Changing Our Lives

On behalf of the SHLD Group I was expert advisor to this project where young people with learning difficulties learnt about the history of people with learning disabilities in the Black Country through work on archives and interviews with staff and residents from the local long stay hospital. See this YouTube Video produced for the project.

No Going Back

I was expert advisor for this Skills for People project which recorded the stories of people who had lived in Prudhoe Hospital. The book is available on the Centre for Welfare Reform, a bargain at £2.50.

21 Years of Central England People First

I helped Central England People First get £48,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to record their history after 21 years, and then I chaired their advisory group. This was a brilliant inclusive history project.

Visit the Central England People First website.

We have written about the project – the paper is in a special issue of the Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 2013.

My publications are listed below

Books

  • Walmsley, J. and Johnson, K. (2003) Inclusive Research with People with Learning Disabilities: Past, Present and Futures, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  • Walmsley, J. and Welshman, J. (eds) (2006) Care, Control and Citizenship, London, Palgrave.
  • Johnson, K. and Walmsley, J. (2010) Towards a Good Life for People with Intellectual Disabilities Bristol Policy Press.

Book chapters

  • Walmsley, J. (2000) (with Atkinson, D.) Oral History and the History of Learning Disability. In Bornat, J. et al. Health Welfare and Oral History, London, Routledge.
  • Walmsley, J. (2000) Four co-written chapters with women with learning difficulties. In Atkinson, D., McCarthy, M., Walmsley, J. et al. (eds) Good Times, Bad Times: Women with learning difficulties telling their stories, Kidderminster, BILD.
  • Walmsley, J. (2000) Straddling Boundaries: the changing role of the voluntary sector. In Brigham, L., Atkinson, D., Jackson, M., Rolph, S. and Walmsley, J. (eds) Crossing Boundaries. Change and Continuity in the History of Learning Disability, Kidderminster, BILD.
  • Walmsley, J. (2000) Caring: a Place in the World. In Traustadottir, R. and Johnson, K. (eds) Women with Intellectual Disabilities: Finding a Place in the World, London, Jessica Kingsley.
  • Walmsley, J. (2002) Principles and Types of Advocacy. In Gray, B. and Jackson, R. (eds) Advocacy and Learning Disability, London, Jessica Kingsley.
  • Walmsley, J. (with Rolph, S.) (2002) The history of community care for people with learning difficulties. In Bytheway, B., Bacigalupo, V., Bornat, J., Johnson, J. and Spurr, S. (eds) Understanding care, welfare and community: a reader, London, Routledge.
  • Walmsley, J. (2005) Institutionalisation: An Historical Perspective. In Johnson, K. and Traustadottir, R. (eds) Deinstitutionalisation and People with Intellectual Disabilities: In and Out of Institutions, London, Jessica Kingsley.
  • Brigham, L., Rolph, S. and Walmsley, J. (2005) (eds) Part One Pioneers of Change 1920–1959. With Harris, R. 'I don't think I'll give up till I die', with Wain, J. 'April Showers', with Nickson, B. 'Never take no for an answer'. In Rolph, S.,Atkinson, D., Nind, M. and Welshman, J. (eds) Witnesses to Change: Families, Learning Difficulties and History, Kidderminster, BILD.
  • Walmsley, J. (2005) (reprinted 2011) Research and Emancipation: Prospects and Problems. In Grant, G., Goward, P., Ramcharan, P. and Richardson, M. (eds) Learning Disability: A Life Cycle Approach to Valuing People, Buckingham, Open University Press.
  • Walmsley, J. with Spencer, K. (2006) ‘I’ve had enough of the everyday thing: Karen Spencer’s Life Story’ in Mitchell D, Traustadottir R, Chapman R et al (eds) Exploring Experiences of Advocacy by People with Learning Disabilities: Testimonies of Resistance London: Jessica Kingsley Publications.
  • Walmsley, J. (2010) Access in Mind: a Review of approaches to accessible information for people with learning disabilities in Seale J and Nind M (eds) Understanding and Promoting Access for People with Learning Difficulties London: Routledge.
  • Walmsley, J. (2010) Research and emancipation: Prospects and Problems in Grant G, Ramcharan P, Flynn M and Richardson M (eds) Learning Disability: a Lifecycle approach (2nd edition) Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  • Walmsley J with Tilley E, and Earle S (2013) ‘International perspectives on the sterilization of women with intellectual disabilities’ in Earle S, Komaromy C and Layne L (eds) Understanding Reproductive Loss: International perspectives on life, death and fertility.

Articles in scholarly journals

  • Walmsley, J. (2000) 'Women and the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913: citizenship, sexuality and regulation', British Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 65–70.
  • Walmsley, J. (2001) 'Normalisation, Emancipatory Research and Learning Disability', Disability and Society, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 187–205.
  • Walmsley, J. (with Rolph, S.) (2001) 'The Development of Community Care for People with Learning Difficulties 1913–1946', Critical Social Policy, Vol. 21(1), pp. 59–80.
  • Walmsley, J. (with Rolph, S. and Atkinson, D.) (2002) 'A Man's Job? Testimonies of Mental Welfare Officers concerning their role in community care', Oral History Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 28–41.
  • Walmsley, J. (2004) 'Lessons from Inclusive Learning Disability Research', Journal of Nursing Inquiry (in press).
  • Walmsley, J. (2004) 'Inclusive Research in Learning Disability: the (non disabled) researcher's role', British Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 65–71.
  • Walmsley, J. (2005) 'What Matters to Vulnerable People: the responsibility of researchers', Clinical Psychology, No. 50, pp. 20–24.
  • Rolph, S. and Walmsley, J. (2006) Oral History and New Orthodoxies: Narrative Accounts in the History of Learning Disability, Oral History, Spring, pp. 81–91.
  • Buchanan, I. and Walmsley, J. (2006) Self Advocacy in Historical Perspective BJLD Special Issue: The history of self advocacy for people with learning difficulties: International Comparisons, Vol. 34, No. 3 pp. 133–138.
  • Read, J. and Walmsley, J. (2006) Experiencing Special Education, Disability and Society, Vol. 21, No. 5, pp. 455-470.
  • Bornat, J. and Walmsley, J. (2008) Biography as Empowerment or Appropriation: Research and Practice Issues, The Innovations Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1, Article 6.
  • Walmsley, J. and Hasheem, M. (2009) Parents as co-researchers: a participatory action research initiative involving parents of people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland, British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37, pp. 271-276.
  • Atkinson, D. and Walmsley, J. (2010) History from the Inside: towards an inclusive history of learning disability, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 12, 4, pp. 273-286.
  • O’Driscoll, D. and Walmsley, J. (2010) Absconding from hospitals: a means of resistance? British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 38, pp. 97-102.
  • Walmsley, J. (2011) An investigation into the implementation of Annual Health Checks for people with intellectual disabilities, Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 15, 3, pp. 157-166.
  • Walmsley, J. with Changing Our Lives (2012) Our Journey Through Time: an Oral History project conducted by young people with learning disabilities, British Journal of Learning Disabilities.
  • Tilley, E., Walmsley, J., Earle, S. and Atkinson, D. (2012) ‘The Silence is Roaring’: Sterilization, reproductive rights and women with intellectual disabilities, Disability and Society, Vol 27, No 3.
  • Walmsley, J. with Central England People First (2013) ‘Telling the history of self advocacy: a challenge for Inclusive Research’, Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disability.

Edited books

  • Bornat, J., Perks, R., Thompson, P. and Walmsley, J. (2000) Health, Welfare and Oral History, London, Routledge.
  • Brechin, A., Walmsley, J., Katz, J. and Peace, S. (2000) Care Matters, London, Sage.
  • Atkinson, D., McCarthy, M., Walmsley, J. et al. (2000) Good Times, Bad Times: Women with Learning Difficulties Telling their Stories, Kidderminster, BILD.
  • Brigham, L., Atkinson, D., Jackson, M., Rolph, S. and Walmsley, J. (2000) Crossing Boundaries. Change and Continuity in the History of Learning Disability, Kidderminster, BILD.
  • Walmsley, J. et al. (2005) Witnesses to Change: Families, Learning Difficulties and History, Kidderminster, BILD.
  • With Davies, C., Hales, M. and Flux, R. (eds) (2013) Better Health in Harder Times: Active Citizens and Innovation on the Front Line, Bristol, Policy Press.

Authored Books

Other publications
  • Walmsley, J. with My Life My Choice (2011) Checking up on DES: an investigation into the implementation of Annual Health Checks in Oxfordshire. Available on www.Janwalmsleyassociates.com
  • Walmsley, J. (2011) Research Unpacked: What is stopping doctors doing annual health checks? Learning Disability Today.
  • Walmsley, J. (2012) Research Unpacked: Thinking about a good life for people with learning disabilities, Learning Disability Today.
  • Davies, .I, O’Byrne, C. and Walmsley, J. (2012) Research Unpacked: Self Advocacy: Where Now? Learning Disability Today.
  • Walmsley, J. (2012) Commentary on ‘The right club for the right shot: Using the accessible information golf bag’, Tizard LD Review.
  • CEPF with Walmsley, J. (2012) 21 years of CEPF 1990-2011: a Journey and a Celebration, Kettering, CEPF.
  • My Life My Choice (2012) Checking Up on DES My Life My Choice’s research into Annual Health Checks for people with learning disabilities in Oxfordshire, British Journal of Learning Disability, 40, 2 pp. 156-161.
  • Earle, S., Tilley, E. and Walmsley, J. (2012) Who makes crucial decisions on reproduction and contraception? Learning Disability Practice, Vol 15, No 8, pp. 34-35.
  • Lloyd, C., Tilley, E. and Walmsley, J. (2013) Diabetes and people with learning disabilities: living in parallel worlds, Learning Disability Today.

Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA

About the website

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