The Open University’s Social History of Learning Disability Group (SHLD) received UKRI ESRC funding in 2019 to build a new research network between the UK and Japan. Two exchange research trips took place last year, with researchers from Japan visiting London, Oxford and Milton Keynes and researchers from the UK, including Dr Elizabeth Tilley, Senior Lecturer in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, visiting Osaka, Hyogo and Nara in Japan.
A report on the exchange, focussing on ‘learning disability and belonging’, has now been published and is available to read and download here.
The SHLD group is committed to researching and disseminating learning disability history in ways which are inclusive of people with learning disabilities, their carers, relatives and advocates.
Each of the exchange teams in the Japan/UK network included people with learning disabilities, family carers and researchers. Their report notes that families in both countries want more choice and opportunities, good support, and to be able to plan for the future when parents/carers get older. It was also observed that ‘belonging’ means different things to people from different countries and cultures.
In Japan, people with learning disabilities are more likely to have a paid job than those in the UK (though sometimes this is poorly paid) and they also have access to more generous pensions and benefits than their counterparts in the UK. However, self-advocacy has been more successful in the UK and the report suggests several reasons why this might be the case.
The teams found much to learn from each culture’s understanding of inclusion and belonging as well as identifying many shared values. In both the UK and Japan, the report says, “we saw some excellent practice: innovative, inspiring and compassionate.”
Dr Tilley adds: "The project was a unique opportunity to bring people with learning disabilities and their families together, across cultures, to share their experiences, hopes and concerns for the future. We have now established a strong partnership that is enabling us to collaborate on new research - including the creation of Manga life stories of people with learning disabilities in Japan and the UK."
You can read the whole report, including a detailed account of each exchange trip, here.