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  1. Study at the OU
  2. Research degrees
  3. Research areas
  4. Health, Social Work and Social Care
  5. Living with disability and long term conditions

Living with disability and long term conditions

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An image illustrating studying living with disability with The Open University

The Faculty of Health & Social Care’s work in this area covers research on a wide spectrum of people’s experiences across the life course, including physical and learning disability and living with a long-term condition. Key strands include the social history of learning disability; theory; policy and practice in disability; advocacy for people with learning disabilities; disability, sexuality and reproductive health; disability and end of life issues; disability and diabetes; and neurodiversity and autism. Research in the field of long-term conditions includes the experience of co-morbidity (physical and mental health); motherhood, and issues around screening; diversity and gender; and the discursive construction of autism. Projects in this area have also focused on the development of inclusive research methodologies and life story work. Collaboration with colleagues in other universities, with service-user and provider organisations, and with disabled people – in the UK and internationally – is a central component of research in this area.

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) plus either a masters degree or research methods training at masters level (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

  • The social history of learning disability
  • Theory, policy and practice in disability
  • Learning disability and families
  • Advocacy for people with learning disabilities
  • Disability/long-term conditions and end of life issues
  • Disability/long-term conditions
  • Disability, learning disability and sexual and reproductive health
  • Disability and parenthood
  • Disability, learning disability and diabetes
  • The experiences of disabled children in the UK and internationally
  • The relationship between physical and mental ill health
  • The health of people from minority ethnic groups
  • The differing experiences of people with long-term conditions
  • The role of new technologies in managing disability/long-term conditions
  • Neurodiversity and autism

Current / recent research projects

  • The construction of ADHD – a discursive psychological approach to the talk of mothers of children with ADHD
  • The Implications of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 on Black and Minority Ethnics with Learning Difficulties
  • The impact of rural and urban environments on the lived experience of people with learning difficulties
  • Neurological Rehabilitation … What next?
  • Mothers who are stroke survivors: what are the effects on their role as parents?

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Dr Lindsay O'Dell, Director of Postgraduate Studies

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under ‘Your questions’ on the right of the page.