ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow 2021-22
ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow 2021-22
Steve Graby is an independent scholar-activist in the field of Disability Studies and the Disabled People’s Movement. Their PhD thesis, ‘Personal Assistance: The Challenge of Autonomy’ focused on the working relationship between disabled people and their directly employed personal assistants, in the context of critical analysis from the Disabled People’s Movement and beyond of waged work, capitalism and neoliberal ableism. This work highlighted the extreme precarity of disabled people’s lives in contemporary Britain and the devaluation of ‘caring’ labour in association with the devaluation of its recipients. One hopeful possibility that it pointed towards was the potential of personal assistance co-operatives to overcome some of the barriers to successful personal assistance relationships, which leads into Steve’s current ISRF-funded research project on disabled people’s involvement in co-operatives (of all kinds) in the UK.
Steve is an active board member of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) and has been involved with other disabled people’s organisations including Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). Steve is also a founder member of TypeOlogy, a workers’ co-operative which does interview transcription, proofreading and other academic services, and would like to start up more co-operatives in areas such as housing, personal assistance and disability research. Their other research interests include neurodiversity, the social model of disability and its intersections with queer and trans-inclusive feminist theory, anarchism and psychogeography. Steve is passionate about co-operative and non-hierarchical values, both within and without the world of formal education, and about seeking practical means to implement them which enable both individual and collective self-determination.
The proposed research aims to investigate the involvement of disabled people in co-operatives in the UK. Disabled people are among those most severely impacted by the austerity economics and cuts to state social provisions of the past decade, while co-operatives have been proposed as a non-state solution to many of the social impacts of austerity politics and of capitalism more generally (e.g. Restakis 2010). There are also significant similarities between the philosophies and practices of co-operatives and of disabled people’s movement organisations (Beresford 2016). However, disabled people’s involvement in co-operatives has not yet been systematically studied or analysed.
This research will build on directions for further study suggested by the findings of my previous doctoral research on disabled people and personal assistance, which highlighted co-operative models of employment of assistants, already well-established in the Scandinavian countries (Westberg 2010), as having potential to address many difficulties experienced by disabled people as individual employers. However, personal assistance is one among many areas of daily life (housing and employment being other prominent examples), in which co-operatives may be powerful tools for overcoming barriers that disabled people experience to full and equal social participation.
Mixed qualitative and quantitative methods will be used to investigate the extent of disabled people’s involvement in cooperatives within the UK and their experiences, including the impact of co-operatives on disabled people’s lived experiences and social positions, as well as barriers that disabled people may face within co-operatives and the co-operative movement. Outputs from this research will include written publications and a conference intended to bring together scholars from disability studies and co-operative studies and actors from disabled people’s and co-operative movements. A longer-term aim, beyond the funded research period, will be the establishment of new co-operative organisations involving disabled people to directly address the issues highlighted by the research.