James is a co-investigator on the DISC project
- What interested you in doing research relating to disability / the DISC project?
My interest in such research goes back to the days when my son was having difficulties at school and it turned out he was heading for a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. As a concerned parent I was making my way through the typically basic and advisory literature when I came across a range of books on Asperger syndrome and employment. I was struck how almost none of the literature was informed by the kind of theories and knowledge in my area at the time of HRM/industrial relations/sociology of work. I set about a paper on Asperger syndrome and employment (published in 2012) and since then disability has played a key part in all my research and I can’t see it ever not being part of my research.
- What are your main concerns for disability research / the DISC project?
The main concern I always see with a lot of literature, is that even when findings have clear and important practical implications, changes to practice are rare. Why this happens is not always the same and even then it’s a complex range of factors that gets in the way of turning sound knowledge into practice. For disability research and knowledge exchange more generally the main (but not only challenge) is the culture of organisations. Many business/employers simply don’t like third parties “interfering” in their day to day operations, even when they are evidently doing a lot of things wrong and paying the prices of such practice. I would hope DISC gets buy-in from the most senior members of universities and that buy-in is overseen by the same people – and people are truly accountable for when things don’t happen, yet are highly commended when they do.
- What are your hopes for disability research / the DISC project?
This is easier to answer in a few words. One word – legacy. I hope the project makes an impact, but my main hope is that the good work doesn’t burnout as organisations look to fix something else when problems with disability persist.
- How do you think the current pandemic will affect disability research / the DISC project?
I believe the project is at a stage where we can adapt to the work-related challenges of the pandemic and may end up with something more than initially planned for. In other words, DISC is built on solid foundations. Of course the pandemic will present challenges, but DISC is being run by a good and creative bunch of people who will make the most of the situation and do their best to mitigate against the worst.
- If you could give one message to people about disability right now, what would it be?
Don’t be silent. Speak out. Explore the many ways your voice can be heard. If you can’t find something, start something yourself. If you are in a job, join a trade union. If you are in a trade union, ask what your union is doing to support disabled staff. If your trade union is not doing enough, this may be your time to become a rep.