The Experiences of People with Learning Difficulties Living in a Rural Area

Liz Ellis

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (not awarded by UHI)

446 Downloads (Pure)


This thesis concerns the intersections between rurality, disability and
community. Using inclusive research approaches in conjunction with a
Critical Disability Studies perspective, the research explored the lived
experiences of a small group of adults who identify as having learning
difficulties. These four, Natasha, Stuart, John and Mark, worked with me as
co-researchers, helping me to develop the themes and focus of the research,
whilst acting as ‘insider’ guides to their local areas.

The research methods needed to be accessible to the co-researchers
and capture the spatial aspects of their local environments. The methods also
had to address the challenges of geographical distance, demands on the co-researchers’ time and the time sensitive nature of the project. To meet these
needs and challenges, a flexible and creative approach using mobile
methods, specifically themed research ‘trips’ was developed. The data was
then analysed using thematic analysis. Whilst there was some co-analysis,
the final analysis of the data is my own.

Although the research was overtly about disability and rurality, it was
set in the context of the 2010-2015 Coalition government and increasing
welfare cuts. It illustrates how communities support people and give a sense
of belonging in such a context.

I suggest that communities ideally function as communities if they are
stable, because stable communities have the depth of kith and kinship that
help create organic, rhizomatic networks of support. I argue that demand for
a cheap, flexible and crucially, mobile, workforce undermines communities
and diminishes interpersonal connections
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The Open University
  • Lomax, Helen, Supervisor, External person
  • Walmsley, Jan, Supervisor, External person
Award date20 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'The Experiences of People with Learning Difficulties Living in a Rural Area'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this