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Liveable disabilities: Life courses and opportunity structures across time

Project description

'Liveable disabilities' and societal structures in the Swedish welfare state

Today, disabled people correspond to 10 % of the European population. However, given their marginal position in society, the bias surrounding the liveability of disabilities is absent from academic research. The ERC-funded DISLIFE project will investigate 'liveable disabilities' as a function of opportunity structures across time. Four life course dimensions will be analysed: health and well-being, education and career, marital/family status, and leisure activities. A mixed approach of both quantitative and qualitative methods will be deployed to elucidate disabled people's experiences and their relation to societal structures before, during and after the establishment of the Swedish welfare state. Research outcomes will be valuable for the development of opportunity structures by governing bodies at a cross-national level.


In Europe today disabled people comprise some 65 million (10%). Yet they are marginalized in society and research, and little is known on how disabilities become liveable. This project challenges this bias by proposing to investigate ‘liveable disabilities’ as a function of disability and opportunity structures across time. It analyses four life course dimensions: disabled people’s (1) health and well-being; (2) involvement in education and work; (3) in a partner relationship and family; and (4) in leisure structures. Through this I identify liveable disabilities before, during and after the Swedish welfare state. The results are of significant cross-national interest as they form a useful baseline for what constitutes liveable disabilities, which helps governing bodies maximize opportunity structures for disabled people to participate fully in society.
This proposal is unique in employing mixed-methods life course research across time. First, it involves quantitative analysis of Sweden’s long-term digitized population databases, which reflect how disability impacts on people’s educational, occupational, marital and survival chances. The statistical outcome is novel in demonstrating how different impairments intersect with human characteristics relative to society’s structures of the past 200 years. Second, qualitative analyses uncover how disabled people today experience and talk about the above dimensions (1-4) themselves, and how mass media depict them. Third, I make innovative studies of leisure structures, which may promote liveable disabilities.
The proposal aims to establish me at the forefront of disability research. It benefits from my scholarship in history and demography and from three excellent centres at Umeå University I am connected to, funded by the Swedish Research Council. One centre researches populations, another gender. The third provides expertise in disability studies and ready access to stakeholders outside academia.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 999 870,00
901 87 Umea

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Norra Sverige Övre Norrland Västerbottens län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 999 870,00

Beneficiaries (1)