REQUESTED RESUBMISSION Music and Disability: Deconstructing the barriers to full participation

Lead Research Organisation: Birmingham City University
Department Name: HELS Sch of Education


The network's aim is to build collaborative and transdisciplinary research partnerships to help understand and overcome the many barriers that disabled people face in accessing music. Disabled people are currently under-represented in most areas of cultural life, and are more likely to face discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and social mobility. In music-making, this underrepresentation can be caused by a number of issues including: attitudinal and institutional barriers, a lack of suitable musical instruments which both meet disabled people's access needs, and allow full participation in musical life; exclusionary practices in music education, socially constructed barriers, health systems and public policy. Furthermore, there is a relative absence of transdisciplinary collaboration and profound differences in language and discourse between fields of research and practice, which compounds this problem.

The barriers to full participation in music-making for disabled people are therefore many and complex. One example is that research concerned with music and disability often runs counter to the values of disabled musicians. Overly medicalising an issue can be a product of society rather than embodied pathology. Another issue is that research undertaken by one discipline does not cross-over to another. This is illustrated by new practices in inclusive music education, not informing the design of adapted instruments, which could support musician development. This network recognises that pathways to solutions lie in exchanging knowledge and developing collaborations, which can be used to influence policy, lead to technological innovations, and encourage inclusive practices in education, health, industry and wider society. If these different disciplines do not come together, there is a danger that transdisciplinary notions of music and disability will remain under-theorised and misunderstood, resulting in continued musical segregation and exclusion for disabled people.

In response, this network will facilitate debate between fields that currently employ diverse methodologies, research purposes and outcomes in relation to disability and music. This network will connect academics and professionals from diverse disciplinary fields. The network will bring together researchers from music education, instrumental science, music technology, psychology, medical and neurological sciences, as well as policy makers, funders, musicians, practitioners and those working in the music sectors. The network will host four multidisciplinary and multi-agency events. These will include: roundtables; seminars; and a hackathon. The events will encourage discussion and debate regarding current research, issues and factors of concern, and problematise practical solutions and innovations to re-think future methodological pathways, discourse and technologies.

Impact is central to this project. To enable wider access and participation the events will be disseminated via a multitude of different platforms. The project will have impact across diverse fields, culminating in joint knowledge development and collaboration, of use for academic and general audiences in practice. This will improve music based opportunities, inclusion and social justice for disabled people.


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