Person-Centered Practices (PCP) in disability services has been an evidence-based best-practice for decades. PCP includes centering people with disabilities in decision-making about their own lives, and recognizing the inherent dignity of risk that is afforded by avoiding overprotective practices based on paternalistic assumptions. Additionally, people with disabilities should be involved in program development that affects lives of disabled people, inspiring use of the phrase Nothing About Us Without Us. These same person-centered practices should also apply to social work research, yet this is often not the case. Systemic ableism has caused barriers to full inclusion not only in society and social service provision, but also in the realm of social work research via exclusion from study criteria, paternalistic consent procedures, and infantilizing disabled participants during research processes.
This workshop will begin with a scoping review of the methodology and ethics of disability inclusion in social work research. Next, we will highlight the history of the ableist practices within the social work profession, and then present several examples from researchers across the U.S. and internationally, that demonstrate how ableism is perpetuated in social work research. These examples include: government and agency policies that create barriers to, or outright prohibit, participation (e.g. issues with consent); experiences of intersectionality of ableism and ethnicism in several stages of the research process; and paternalism and unnecessary overprotection from researchers and community partners that impedes full participation. These ableist practices negatively impact research rigor, trustworthiness and credibility. The examples provided will highlight ableism at various stages of the research process. Following the presentation, workshop attendees will participate in an engaging exercise centered on transformative practices and community accountability, working toward disability justice in social work research. The previously provided research examples will be used to simulate development of a transformative research practice, and a discussion about community accountability. This activity has also been designed to help participants practice critical reflection regarding their own research practices and partnering systems, and develop actions to move towards transforming service and research systems into truly inclusive practices.
Following participation in this workshop, attendees will be able to envision social work research that is just and inclusive of disabled persons. Participants will also be able to recognize ableist practices and identify action steps in practice, policy and research, that support disability justice in social work research.