Author Archives: donna

Psycho-emotional disablism and internalised oppression (chapter, 2014)

Reeve, D. (2014) ‘Psycho-emotional disablism and internalised oppression’, in J. Swain, S. French, C. Barnes and C. Thomas (eds) Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments, 3rd Edition, London: Sage, pp. 92-98.

This book chapter provides a useful summary of psycho-emotional disablism and the connection with internalised oppression.

Reformulating psychological difficulties in people with Parkinson’s disease: The potential of a social relational approach to disablism (article with Jane Simpson and Helen McMillan, 2013)

Simpson, J., McMillan, H. and Reeve, D. (2013) ‘Reformulating psychological difficulties in people with Parkinson’s disease: The potential of a social relational approach to disablism’, Parkinson’s Disease. [Online article]. Available from <>.


Research investigating the psychological difficulties experienced by people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) is dominated by individualistic neurobiological and psychological perspectives. Therefore, this opinion paper draws on a reformulation of the social model of disability, Thomas’ (1999) and (2007) social relational approach to disablism, to offer an alternative way of conceptualising psychological difficulties experienced by people with PD. This opinion paper explores the ways in which socially imposed restrictions and stigma may contribute to psychological difficulties by usingThomas’ (2007) concept of psychoemotional disablism. By using the lens of psychoemotional disablism, this paper demonstrates that people with PD can be exposed to stigmatising attitudes and interactions which could contribute to restrictions, feelings of shame, and psychological difficulties such as depression. Accordingly, it is argued that further attention to the link between psychological difficulties and social dimensions of disablism in PD is needed in both research arenas and clinical practice to broaden understandings and interventions for people with PD.


The arrival of the ‘brown envelope’: The embodied experience of welfare reform in the UK (paper with Karen Soldatic, 2012)

Reeve, D. and Soldatic, K. (2012) ‘The arrival of the ‘brown envelope’: The embodied experience of welfare reform in the UK’, paper presented at 6th Biennial Disability Studies Conference, Lancaster University, 11-13 September.


Within the UK, the restructuring of disability social security measures under the Cameron Government welfare to work agenda has received considerable attention within the mainstream media.  Frequently, we are exposed to a range of discourses and discursive practices that seek to morally, politically and socially justify the on-going withdrawal of disability social entitlements via the realm of disability benefits such as the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).  While there has been a growing body of work that has sought to identify the significant material and stigmatising effects of the Cameron Government’s disability welfare to work agenda, thus far, there have been few studies that have directly drawn upon the rich narratives of disabled women who have directly experienced the coercive administrative procedures of the government’s welfare to work agenda.

In this paper, we begin to fill this significant gap in the literature.  Our point of analysis seeks to understand disabled women’s emotionally embodied experience of receiving information from the administrative department responsible for notifying disabled ESA recipients of welfare assessments and other mandatory requirements such as job centre appointments that form part of these reforms.  We argue, that exploring disabled women’s embodied experience of the arrival of the brown envelope, the envelope containing welfare reform administrative requirements for ESA recipients, provides a critical window into understanding the nascent forms of psycho-social embodied disablism that emerges under such coercive disciplining regimes.  Further, through the use of narrative methodologies, we show that the disabling effects of such administrative processes not only affect the ‘emotional wellbeing’ of the individuals concerned, but have far greater consequences for the processing of their legitimate claims to disability social entitlements.

‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’: Welfare reform and the Work Capability Assessment (paper with Karen Soldatic, 2012)

Reeve, D. and Soldatic, K. (2012) ‘‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’: Welfare reform and the Work Capability Assessment’, paper presented at Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane, 3rd International Conference, Chester University, 26-27 June.


Disabled people and their entitlement to social security benefits are now a central concern of neoliberal economic policy debates (OECD, 2009). As a consequence, across western (neo)liberal democracies, a redefinition of who is seen as ‘really disabled’ is taking place. The form that this takes varies with country; in the UK this has resulted in many disabled people who were formerly in receipt of Incapacity Benefit, being now declared as ‘fit to work’ under the successor Employment Support Allowance.

As the coalition government continue their plans to reform disability benefits under the auspices of a time of austerity, the Work Capability Assessment is a key tool to separate out disabled people into those deserving of support, those deemed fit to work and those in the intermediate work-related activity group. Drawing on interviews with disabled women talking about their experience of claiming ESA, this paper will discuss their experiences of attending a WCA medical. We will show how these women internalise governmental and media discourses about who is seen as disabled (and worthy of support) and the ways in which they navigate the complex, trap-laden setting of the WCA medical.

This paper will be presenting new ideas which are still under development by the two authors. One line of discussion will show how these narrative accounts illustrate the ways in which ESA and the associated WCA lead to economic zones of indistinction (Agamben, 1998). In these liminal spaces disabled people are no longer protected by the welfare state and instead find themselves at the mercy of prejudiced employers and part-time, insecure work opportunities. This paper will also discuss the impact on the emotional health of these disabled women caused by their negotiation of the multiple, shifting, conflicting identities foisted upon them by external agents.

Cyborgs, cripples and iCrip: Reflections on the contribution of Haraway to disability studies (chapter, 2012)

Reeve, D. (2012) ‘Cyborgs, cripples and iCrip: Reflections on the contribution of Haraway to disability studies’, in D. Goodley, B. Hughes and L. J. Davis (eds) Disability and Social Theory: New Developments and Directions, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 91-111.

This chapter was requested by one of the book editors who wanted to see how I would use the work of Haraway when applied to disability. I use cyborg theory to look at embodiment and to illustrate the way in which impaired cyborgs, are potentially able to unsettle the binary divisions between normal/abnormal, non-disabled/disabled as exemplified by iCrip.

The relevance of psycho-emotional disablism for physiotherapists and their patients (paper, 2012)

Reeve, D. (2012) ‘The relevance of psycho-emotional disablism for physiotherapists and their patients’, paper presented at North West Regional Network CSP: AGM and Study Day, Bolton Arena, 21 April.

This paper introduced the concept of psycho-emotional disablism to a room of physiotherapists – drawing on both my academic work and personal experiences of using physiotherapy services.

Part of the problem or part of the solution? A discussion of the reality of ‘Inclusive Access for Disabled Customers’ (paper, 2012)

Reeve, D. (2012) ‘Part of the problem or part of the solution? A discussion of the reality of ‘Inclusive Access for Disabled Customers’’, paper presented at Disability – Spaces and Places of Exclusion Symposium, Lancaster University, 16-17 April.


Although disabled people in the UK had the right to use services and access goods in 1995, it was only on 2004 that the Disability Discrimination Act (replaced in 2010 by the Equality Act) was extended to demand that service providers make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to physical features which made it difficult for disabled people to access their services. However the failure of planners and architects to embrace inclusive design has meant that Western cities reveal a ‘design apartheid where building form and design are inscribed with the values of an ‘able-bodied’ society’ (Imrie, 1998: 129). In addition, the ‘reasonable adjustments’ which are made often concentrate on aiding independence through the provision of physical access, but at the cost of disabled people’s self-esteem and dignity. Thus the adjustments made are often far from ideal for the people who use them.

This paper will discuss how indirect psycho-emotional disablism can arise from moving within ‘landscapes of exclusion’ (Kitchin, 1998: 351) caused by poorly thought through ‘reasonable adjustments’. Whilst a flight of steps can exclude a wheelchair user (structural disablism), being forced to access a building through a separate back entrance can remind that person that they are a second-class citizen, who is being reluctantly included. Consequently the wheelchair user may decide not to access this building and ironically the ‘solution’ to a physical barrier has created a new psycho-emotional barrier which maintains social exclusion and isolation. If one takes into account the other forms of psycho-emotional disablism which people with impairments face on a daily basis e.g. prejudiced interactions with others and internalised oppression, then the emotional effect produced by being reminded that one is ‘out of place’ (Kitchin, 1998: 351) needs to be taken as seriously as the more common structural disablism caused by inaccessible environments.

This seminar paper was developed into a subsequent book chapter.

Britain’s disabled are being abandoned by the state (report with Karen Soldatic, Hannah Morgan and Chris Grover, 2012)

Soldatic, K., Reeve, D., Morgan, H. and Grover, C. (2012) Britain’s disabled are being abandoned by the state, [Internet], OpenDemocracy. Available from <> [Accessed 19 April 2012].

A short accessible piece highlighting the problems faced by disabled people under welfare reform.