DISCIT Making persons with disabilies full citizens

New book on lived experiences

Rune Halvorsen. Phto: HiOA

A new book of DISCIT findings is published at Routledge: Understanding the Lived Experiences of Persons with Disabilities in Nine Countries. Active Citizenship and Disability in Europe Volume 2.

The volume is edited by HiOA researchers Rune Halvorsen (photo), Bjørn Hvinden and colleagues.

Over the last three decades, a number of reforms have taken place in European social policy with an impact on the opportunities for persons with disabilities to be full and active members of society. The policy reforms have aimed to change the balance between citizens’ rights and duties and the opportunities to enjoy choice and autonomy, live in the community and participate in political decision-making processes of importance for one’s life.

How do the reforms influence the opportunities to exercise Active Citizenship? This volume presents the findings from the first cross-national comparison of how persons with disabilities reflexively make their way through the world, pursuing their own interests and values. The volume considers how their experiences, views and aspirations regarding participation vary across Europe.

Based on retrospective life-course interviews, the volume examines the scope for agency on the part of persons with disabilities, i.e. the extent to which men and women with disabilities are able to make choices and pursue lives they have reasons to value. Drawing on structuration theory and the capability approach, the volume investigates the opportunities for exercising Active Citizenship among men and women in nine European countries.

Women with disabilities are more at risk

The life-course interviews show that despite the progress made in disability policy since the 1990s, much work still remain in order to ensure that persons with disabilities have the opportunities to exercise Active Citizenship on an equal basis with others. The life-course interviews have showed that many persons with disabilities still face specific barriers, which prevent full and effective participation in the community, the labour market and in the education system.Book cover: Understanding the Lived Experiences of Persons with Disabilities in Nine Countries

Women with disabilities are more at risk of low scores on security, autonomy and influence than men with disabilities. Experiences of legal, attitudinal, economic and organisational barriers to having children, and more generally, to exercising Active Citizenship through domestic and care work, as well as difficulties in combining paid and unpaid work, were not uncommon.

The life-course interviews demonstrate that public disability policies matter. UN, EU and national policies influence the opportunities for but do not determine the Active Citizenship of persons with disabilities.


To achieve more Active Citizenship of persons with disabilities, the EU needs to stimulate Member States and associated States to recalibrate their disability policies:

  1. Income maintenance: in many European countries, the disability-related social security systems prevent wealth accumulation and social participation, as benefits do not lift people out of poverty and can even place people in poverty traps.
  2. Social services: most countries have much to do to improve the availability and quality of community based services and prevent re-institutionalisation, especially for persons with multiple or severe disabilities.
  3. Social regulation: a) National implementation of the Employment Equality Directive is often weak and unsystematic. b) Some countries could to larger extent offer wage subsidies and/or reimbursement of employers’ costs relating to reasonable accommodation. c) Existing national policies are insufficient and too fragmented to ensure accessibility for all.

Source: R. Halvorsen, B. Hvinden, J.B. Brown, M. Biggeri, J. Tøssebro, A. Waldschmidt (2017): Understanding the lived experiences of persons with disabilities in nine countries. Active citizenship and disability in Europe Volume 2. Routledge

This post created by:

Nina Eriksen

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