About the research

A drawing of a researcher sitting at a desk, with a computer, lamp, notebook, box files and printed papers. To their right is a drawing of a diverse group of 6 disabled people, with the Co-op Marque above them. Adapted from images in Change image bank.

British Sign Language version of this page:

Work without bosses, housing without landlords, and nothing about us without us: researching disabled people’s involvement in co-operatives in the UK is a one-year research project which I (Steve Graby) have been funded to do by the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF). The funding period started in September 2021 and will end in September 2022. I am working on this project as a Visiting Researcher in the Centre for Employment Relations, Innovations and Change (CERIC) at Leeds University Business School.

The aim of this research is to investigate the involvement of disabled people in co-operatives in the UK, and to find out more about things such as:
• ways that co-ops may be helpful for disabled people in overcoming barriers to things like finding and retaining paid work, meeting their personal assistance needs, or finding affordable and accessible housing;
• barriers that disabled people may face within co-ops that they are involved in, such as a lack of understanding of their access needs, or stereotypical attitudes that other people in co-ops might have about disabled people;
• what disabled people who are involved in co-ops think about the similarities, differences and possible connections between the politics and principles of co-ops and the Disabled People’s movement;
• ways that co-ops and disabled people’s organisations could inform each other and work together in ways that could be helpful for them both.

Disabled people, defined according to the social model of disability, includes anyone who has or is considered to have an impairment and who is excluded or treated worse than non-disabled people because of it, for example:
d/Deaf people and others with hearing impairments
• blind people and others with visual impairments
• wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments
• people with learning difficulties
• autistic, dyslexic or otherwise neurodivergent people
• people who experience mental distress, chronic pain or chronic illnesses
• anyone else who considers themself to be a disabled person.

Co-operatives are businesses that are collectively owned and controlled by their members for their mutual benefit. These can include workers’ co-ops, housing and other consumer co-ops, multi-stakeholder co-ops (co-ops with more than one group of members, for example a social care co-op which has both those who receive care and those who provide it as members), and any other type of business that is owned by its members and run according to co-operative values and principles.

The research will have 3 main parts:
• A survey of co-ops in the UK to find out how many co-ops have disabled members and to what extent co-ops have taken into account disabled people’s access needs;
Interviews with disabled people who are or have been members of co-ops, about their experiences in co-ops and what they think and/or how they feel about the intersections between co-ops and disability;
• A few case studies of co-ops which were created by and/or for disabled people, and/or intended for the purpose of meeting disabled people’s specific needs. (Examples could include housing co-ops specifically providing accessible housing, workers’ co-ops consisting of disabled workers, or co-ops providing services such as personal assistance, sign language interpretation, or disability equality training.)

I created this website primarily to advertise my research and to call for research participants, but I intend to keep it ‘live’ beyond the funded period of the research, as hopefully projects will grow out of it that will carry on in the longer term, and the site will continue to function as an online home for resources about disabled people and co-operatives.

See my profile on the ISRF website.