DISCIT Making persons with disabilies full citizens
Rune Halvorsen. Phto: HiOA

New book on lived experiences

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

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Rune Halvorsen. Phto: HiOA

New book on the changing disability policy system

This book published by Routledge studies the changing disability policy system in nine European countries and is the first edited volume from the DISCIT project.

Rune Halvorsen (photo), Bjørn Hvinden, Jerome Bickenbach, Delia Ferri and Ana Marta Guillén Rodriguez are editors.

Being an ‘active citizen’ involves exercising social rights and duties, enjoying choice and autonomy, and participating in political decision-making processes which are of importance for one’s life. Amid the new challenges facing contemporary welfare states, debate over just how ‘active’ citizens can and ought to be has redoubled.

Book coverPresenting research from the first major comparative and cross-national study of active citizenship and disability in Europe, this book analyses the consequences of ongoing changes in Europe – what opportunities do persons with disabilities have to exercise Active Citizenship?

The Changing Disability Policy System: Active Citizenship and Disability in Europe Volume 1 approaches the conditions for Active Citizenship from a macro perspective in order to capture the impact of the overall disability policy system. This system takes diverse and changing forms in the nine European countries under study. Central to the analysis are issues of coherence and coordination between three subsystems of the disability policy system, and between levels of governance.

This book identifies the implications and policy lessons of the findings for future disability policy in Europe and beyond.

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DISCIT Final Report Executive Summary

The FP7 project DISCIT provides new knowledge about the diversity in disability policy in European countries and emerging possibilities for policy learning and innovation across Europe. This knowledge shows what steps policymakers and stakeholders need to take to enable persons with disabilities to exercise Active Citizenship and participate fully in society on an equal basis with others.

In DISCIT, 10 organisations (six universities, two research institutes and two Civil Society Organisations) from 10 different countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and UK) worked intensively together over a period of three years (February 2013 – January 2016).

Through the involvement of the European Disability Forum (EDF, Belgium) as one of the Consortium Members, an International Scientific Advisory Committee, a European Stakeholder Committee and National Stakeholder Committees, the DISCIT team was able to involve civil society and policy makers during the lifetime of the project.

Coordinated policy actions?

When examining how policymakers and stakeholders discuss disability policy and put it into practice, DISCIT has taken into account the different levels of governance involved and their interrelationships: first, international policy and law (notably the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities); second, regional policy and law (EU legislation, strategies, Social Fund grants, etc.); third, national policies (policy and law on cash transfer, services delivery and social regulation); and finally, subnational/local policies (systems of provisions and regulations).

A major issue has been whether the decision-makers succeed in coordinating actions taken at these different levels of disability policy governance and make these actions mutually supporting.

Three steps in data collection and data analysis

DISCIT collected and analysed data in three steps: First, the team started by synthesising policy documents and existing statistics and findings from earlier research. The purpose of this step, which the team mainly carried out in 2013, was to map and analyse the overall structures of national policy systems and developments in the situation of persons with disabilities over time.

Second, during 2014, the team conducted 217 life course interviews with an almost equal number of women and men, with four main types of disabilities, from three birth cohorts (born around 1950, 1970 and 1990) and in nine countries (Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and UK). The interviews provided new knowledge about the experiences and perceptions of persons with disabilities, and change and continuity within and across countries.

Third and finally, in 2015, the team conducted 85 interviews with other informants (experts) in the nine countries to assess the actual development in disability policy and the degree of coordination between levels of policy governance in practice.

Eight Policy Briefs

All this work led to eight Policy Briefs in different European languages, 60 varying dissemination activities (including conferences, press releases and videos) and 25 scientific Deliverables, of which DISCIT has published 22 as working papers on its websites.

Two books from Routledge

The international publisher Routledge has agreed to publish the two main joint scientific publications from DISCIT – two edited volumes – by the end of 2016 or early 2017.

Furthermore, four colleagues involved in DISCIT are currently working with their doctoral theses partly based on DISCIT findings. By 2017, DISCIT Consortium Members will have published at least 10 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

For further information, please contact:
Bjørn Hvinden, Scientific Coordinator DISCIT, bjorn.hvinden@nova.hioa.no, or
Bettina Uhrig, Project Manager DISCIT, bettina.uhrig@nova.hioa.no

Download the DISCIT Final Report Executive Summary

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