Thematic Streams

NNDR2025 introduces thematic streams as part of the conference. Paper submissions can be within or outside of the suggested thematic streams.

Inquiries on thematic streams
Descriptions and coordinators of the thematic streams

Disability and the Labour Market

Current changes in the world of work, such as digitalization, flexibilization and individualization, could be an opportunity for better inclusion and overcoming of barriers for employment of people with disabilities, but also yield the risk of creating new barriers and new cleavages of exclusion.

Persons with disabilities have lower employment rates, higher inactivity and unemployment rates than persons without disabilities. The latest figures suggest that only 51% of persons with disabilities in the European Union are employed, compared to 76% of persons without disabilities (European Commission 2020). Employment rates for persons with disabilities vary throughout Europe, but no one country has yet made significant progress in reducing the disability employment gap (European Human Rights Report 2023). 

Although the Nordic countries perform better than other European countries, they are also far from realizing the UN CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) right to work on equal basis with others in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities (article 27) (cf. OECD 2022).

In this thematic stream we will explore the barriers and opportunities for people with disabilities to equality in the labour market, employment and work life. Relevant themes include but are not limited to:

  • The labour supply among persons with different types of disabilities, the lived experiences of job search, work and employment.
  • The attitudes and behavior of employers towards persons with different types of disabilities, disability disclosure, discrimination, stigma, inclusion, diversity management and preferential treatment.
  • Opportunities and risks associated with transformations in the world of work (e.g., flexibilization, new work, digitalization) for the work situation of people with disabilities.
  • Innovative strategies, policies and measures to promote labour market participation of persons with disabilities (e.g. anti-discrimination laws, quota schemes, reasonable accommodation, wage subsidies, employment services and support programs)
  • The role and practices of the public employment system in assisting persons with disabilities in finding employment.
  • The interplay between the supply, demand and matching actors in practice.
  • Similarities and differences between Nordic disability and employment policies. 

The thematic stream will be an opportunity to take stock of Nordic research on disability and the labour market, exchange experiences, explore opportunities for networks, joint publications and applications to further strengthen the research field. 

Thomas Bredgaard, Aalborg University;
Johanna Gustafsson Örebro University;
Eric Breit, BI Norwegian Business School;
Siri Yde Aksnes Centre for Welfare and Laobur Research, Oslo Met;
Stefan Hardonk  Iceland University;
Lena Hünefeld Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health;
Frauke Mörike TU Dortmund University;
Bastian PelkaTU Dortmund University


Service quality for people with intellectual disabilities

De-institutionalized services and support based on individual preferences have fundamentally changed the opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. The small community based and more individualized services that have replaced institutions aim to promote self-determination, participation, and a sense of meaning and purpose. They are potentially better equipped to deliver high-quality support and a good quality of life as well as realise the human rights of people with intellectual disabilities. However, cases of abuse and violence towards people with intellectual disabilities are regularly identified in these same settings, and research suggests that good practice is fragile, and outcomes of similar services are variable. Therefore, continued discussions about quality and safeguarding are necessary.

This thematic track, based on research contributions from different continents, focuses on recent analyses of the quality of support and services and the experiences of people with intellectual disabilities themselves, their families, staff, managers and of politicians. The factors that contribute to, or hinder, the quality support and services for people with intellectual disabilities will be explored. These include challenges related to the severity of disability, staff competence, evidence informed working methods, the organisational factors needed to embed good practice and legal regulations. The theme includes discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of different methods for measuring the quality of support and services as well as specific aspects of service quality for people with intellectual disabilities.

Christine Bigby, La Trobe University;
Magnus Tideman, Marie Cederschiöld University; 
Petra BjörneCity of Malmö, Umeå University


Youth and transitions

This stream invites papers which explore the inequalities and diversities that shape the transitions of disabled young people as they move from childhood into adulthood. This period in the lives of all young people has changed significantly over recent decades, as pathways to adulthood have become more complex and fragmented. Disabled young people face particular challenges as they move through adolescence into adulthood and while some disability studies work has explored the issues around transitions between paediatric and adult health and social care, the wider landscape of transitions is now also being considered. This moves discussion beyond individual and uncritical understandings of the values of independence, choice and responsibility to engage with the broader constraints that shape transition experiences. In looking at transitions more widely, we can begin to understand how the experiences of disabled young people have been changed by social, political and economic shifts across areas such as employment, education, social care, technology, and wider welfare systems, as well as the impact on family and/or other significant relationships. It is therefore important to develop understanding of what happens to disabled young people as they move towards adulthood, both to address the challenges and possibilities they face, but also for what that tells us about the nature of transitions across different local and global contexts.

Charlotte Pearson, University of Glasgow 
Janice McLaughlin, Newcastle University 
Jane Cullingworth, University of Glasgow 
Tracy Shildrick, Newcastle University 


Independent Living

Independent Living is a social movement and a field of enquiry with a rich, distinctive, and dynamic research agenda. The latter brings together many contemporary debates within disability advocacy and disability studies, while keeping disabled people’s voices and self-determination squarely at the centre. The proposed thematic stream will tap on this powerful intersection between activism, research, and policy engagement.

Since its emergence in the 1960s in the United States, Independent Living has become increasingly global, while the related ideas and policies have been extensively studied by disability researchers throughout the world. Independent Living has informed radical innovations in service provision for disabled people, as also recognised in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Key topics of academic and policy interest have included deinstitutionalisation, personal assistance, peer support, and community-based services. Conceptually, Independent Living has informed innovative analyses of advocacy, agency, identity, (bio)power, care, and inter/dependence.

More recently, Independent Living has paid increasing attention to issues of intersectionality to accommodate the increasing diversity within the movement. Thus, the voices of neurodivergent people, women, older people, and disabled people from the Global South (among others) have started to rearticulate the basic tenets of Independent Living. New technologies, including recent developments in generative AI, have been subjected to scrutiny by Independent Living advocates and scholars. In addition, recent crises have forced Independent Living though and activism to grapple with COVID-19 and its aftermath, armed conflicts and creeping militarisation of societies, austerity agendas, migration trends, and climate change.

The proposed thematic stream will provide a platform where all these issues will be discussed and debated. Thus, it will create a space where activism meets scholarly engagement and policy innovation, mobilising Independent Living as a field of enquiry capable of driving forward disability research in the 21 c.

Kamil Goungor, European Network on Independent Living (ENIL);
Miro Griffiths, University of Leeds;
Rannveig Traustadottir, University of Iceland;
Teodor Mladenov, University of Dundee


Disability and the digital society 

The digital society is rapidly changing the conditions in a broad variability of areas. For people living with a disability this mean many times completely new challenges but also great opportunities. This thematic stream brings together the discussions on disability and digitalization. The central achievement of disability studies is to understand the relationships between bodies, abilities, and technologies primarily as social matters. In that sense, we need research where the different dimensions of digital society are considered from the perspectives of disability studies. From an interdisciplinary perspective this stream will deepen today's central themes around the importance of society's digitalization in relation to the disability field. The stream will provide both perspectives on how digital technology can be understood with a disability perspective, and how the considerations about digital technology in social sciences, science and technology studies, and humanities might change the current disability theories. Central approaches will be a focus on accessibility to digital technology, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) considered as the central point of departure. Other important aspects include how global inequalities are intertwined with digitalization and what kinds of new ideals about citizenship with its ability norms digitalization engenders.

Kristofer Hansson, Malmö University;
Touko Vaahtera, University of Eastern Finland 



Dear researchers and practitioners we invite empirical and conceptual paper submissions to a neurodiversity stream at the 17th Nordic Network of Disability Research (NNDR) research conference (between 7th and 9th May 2025) at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

Papers should be focused across the following 4 themes and be representative of lived experience in any of the following:

  • Neurodiversity and leisure (e.g. family holidays, playing sports, visiting tourist attractions)
  • Neurodiversity and education (e.g. schools/colleges/universities)
  • Neurodiversity and employment (e.g. support/well-being)
  • Neurodiversity and friendships/ families or relationships (e.g. neurodiverse families/siblings/making friends)


“Neurodiversity” is a neologism that is used to describe the range of neurological functioning that exists in any human population. People with neurodivergent conditions, such as developmental coordination disorder/dyspraxia, autism, Tourette syndrome, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, have profiles outside of what is considered neurotypical. 

Neurodiversity research 

Most research into neurodiversity is based either on the medical or social model. The former views the difficulties encountered by neurodivergent people as personal deficits that require correction through medication, surgery, or medical equipment. The latter views such problems as the result of the physical and social world not being designed to meet the needs of neurodivergent people.

Contributors to this stream should consider the barriers to achieving equity in their chosen theme and explore the “lived experiences” of neurodivergent people and their families.  Submissions should aim to ensure that the language used is considerate and supportive of neurodivergent people.  For example, research demonstrates that the autistic community prefers identity-first language, therefore describing people as autistic rather than as ‘a person with autism’ (person first language) which could imply that the autism is separate from a person’s original ‘unspoiled’ identity. 

Tracy Turner, University of Hertfordshire Business School;
Luke Beardon, Sheffield Hallam University;
Allan Jepson, University of Hertfordshire Business School;
Nicola Martin, London South Bank University


Global Disability Studies

Even though the majority of disabled people reside in the global South, the experiences and voices of disabled people are largely absent within mainstream disability studies that has long been dominated by a Northern lens. The thematic stream of “Global Disability Studies” calls for a decentering of disability theorizing by engaging in a transnational and comparative understanding of disability rights and justice across cultures and contexts, with a particular focus on the broadly defined Global South contexts. This stream welcomes submissions addressing the sociocultural, economic, geopolitical, and historical processes that shape the marginalization, deprivation, exclusion, and, equally important, empowerment and activism of disabled people and their allies in the South. These may encompass a broad range of topics including but not limited to disability in the local contexts of poverty and livelihood, relationality and interdependence, self-help and community activism, sociocultural representation, global and domestic migration, colonialism, accessibility, intersectionality, inclusive and special education, and beyond. We also welcome studies critically examining the globalization and local translation of the disability rights discourses, particularly along with the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other international disability development initiatives. Submissions from scholars and institutions from the Global South are particularly welcomed. 

Stephen Meyers,University of Washington;
Shixin Huang, Hong Kong Polytechnic University,University of Washington 


Disability and ageing

Demographic changes in countries around the world are giving rise to new concerns, not only for the population as a whole, but also for people with disabilities. This theme aims to address and analyze a number of issues surrounding the links between ageing and disability. In view of the overall theme of the conference (Disability in Local and Global Contexts), contributions are invited to address the subject from any level of analysis (from local to global), from the following angles 

Growing old as a disabled person 

  • How do disabled people perceive and adapt to aging? 
  • How are social policies, associations, caregivers and relatives adapting to the aging of disabled people? 
  • How are transitions and risks of disruption anticipated? 
  • What comparative approaches are possible between countries? 
  • What comparative approaches are possible between different types of area (urban, rural)? 

The evolution of epistemological currents, concepts and methodologies used in the study of disability through the prism of ageing 

  • To what extent are aging populations and the issues surrounding loss of autonomy leading to a reconsideration of disability-related concepts? 
  •  To what extent do demographic changes raise epistemological and methodological issues for the various currents of research in disablity studies? 
  •  What are the philosophical issues raised by the application of ageing frameworks to the situation of disabled people, and the application of disability concepts to ageing people? 
  •  To what extent can these elements fuel the opposition between medical and social approaches to disability?

Disability and ageing in the light of intersectionality

  •  To what extent do the logics of validism and ageism (and possibly other forms of discrimination) combine to produce forms of intersectionalized segregation and discrimination?


Fournier Mauricette, Université Clermont Auvergne; 
Chignier Riboulon Franck, Université Clermont Auvergne;
Escuriet Meddy, Université Clermont Auvergne;
Perié-Fernandez David, Institut du Travail Social de la Région Auvergne


Disabilities in Modern Societies 

As an alternative to an individualistic diagnosis of disability, this thematic stream contends that disability is to be understood within the context of significant shifts in social structures and institutions. Rather than considering these issues in isolation – both from one another and from broader contexts – the sessions in this thematic stream explore how disability, mental health and ill-being are not just located at the level of the individual body. The stream delves into the living conditions and opportunities shaped by the dialectic relation between individuals and evolving institutional structures, along with political and scientific discourses. 

We welcome interdisciplinary approaches that aim to re-examine our vocabulary of social pathologies, abelism and disability in a contemporary and innovative way, pointing towards new approaches to sustainable inclusion and diversity. 

Suggested themes can include but are not limited to: 

  • Contemporary concepts of Social Pathologies and their relevance for disability research.
  • Contemporary concepts of ableism and their relevance for disability research
  • Contemporary social diagnostics and their contribution to understanding contemporary developments in diagnostics, biological and psychological approaches to physical and mental diseases.
  • Contextual conditions, social structures, socioeconomic inequality, and its influence on inclusion/exclusion.
  • How disability is formed, accelerated (strengthened/multiplied), or reduced by contextual conditions and societal structures, especially how disability and socioeconomic inequality interact. 
  • Interaction and communication between front-line staff and service users, its discourses, problem definitions and understandings of disability. 
  • New paradigms and methods to strengthen multidisciplinary efforts in the field.
  • New ways to sustainability and bio/human diversity: crip-theory, ableism, and universal design.

Pia Rinø, Aalborg University. , RC group Disability and Psychiatry, SOSA;
Anthon Sand Jørgensen, Center for Integrated welfare initiatives, VIA, SOSA, AAU;
Kjeld Høgsbro, Aalborg University, SOSA;
Iben Nørup, SOSA, Aalborg University 


History (Inter- and Multidisciplinary Approaches to Disability throughout History)

This stream seeks to build and bolster inter and multi-disciplinary work in the research of Disability throughout History, sharing case studies and methods between seemingly different fields. It is our experience that such interactions lead to fruitful cooperations and collaborations, and want to expand this to the larger platform of NNDR. The focus of this year's NNDR on local and global contexts is especially rewarding for this endeavour, as it highlights how different scopes can be helpful when approaching disability, either looking at the longue durée or the specific case study. Co-authored presentations stressing multidisciplinary cooperations will therefore be encouraged, as well as papers that highlight the intersections between different fields and methods of Disability Studies.

Topics that papers could cover, but should not be limited to:

  • Fruitful (i.e. with potential for future research in various fields) historical case studies
  • Fruitful historical themes
  • Intersections between Disability Studies, Deaf Studies, Crip Theory and Disability History
  • Critical historiographical surveys
  • Historical topics and case studies examined through multidisciplinary perspectives
  • Neglected historical sources
  • Global historical trends
  • Localized historical case studies

Hanna Björg Sigurjónsdóttir, Háskóli Íslands;
Stefan Celine Hardonk Háskóli Íslands;
Alice Bower, Háskóli Íslands;
Yoav Tirosh, Aarhus Universitet.  


Disability and education

This thematic stream concerns research studying education from the point of view of disability from early education to higher education. It will explore the ableist barriers to the full participation of disabled people in education. The stream centers views and contribution of people with experiential knowledge of disability and acknowledges the different positions that persons living with disability have in the field of education as students, parents, educators, directors as well as researchers. We promote reflection on experiential knowledge (sometimes called lived experience or lived expertise) and particularly welcome papers discussing perspectives and opportunities provided by participatory designs and methods (e.g., co-creation, co-research) for development of educational practices as well as research on education.

The stream has a broad disciplinary reach and explores themes such as:

  • the value of experiential knowledge for learning and the learning communities
  •  the potential contribution of disability theory and thinking to pedagogy and curriculum development
  •  moving disability from the margins to the mainstream, from reliance on disability champions to systemwide inclusion
  • ableism in education
  • equal access to education
  • disability justice in education
  • universal design for learning
  • contribution of disability studies to education of health and social service professionals
  • including people with intellectual disability In university life
  • case studies and models of good practice
  • disability leadership in education

Tal Jarus, University of British Columbia; 
Yvonne Bulk, University of British Columbia;
Shane Clifton, Centre for Disability Research and Policy, University of Sydney;
Kim Bulkeley, Centre for Disability Research and Policy, University of Sydney;
Lise Mogensen, Western Sydney University;
Clodagh Nolan, Trinity College Dublin; 
Anna-Maija Niemi, University of Turku; 
Aarno Kauppila, University of Helsinki