9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS01 Sociology and Disability

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Disability: Equality, Justice and Risk Building II, C3.01

Disabled people and edgework: Disability, access and voluntary risk taking

Risk and disability are inextricably linked. Disabled people are seen as risky; they are not to be trusted and they are seen as a risk both to themselves and to others. They must be supervised at all times. Their bodies are not to be depended on, they do not operate in the same way as nondisabled people and we cannot have confidence in what they can and cannot do. Disabled people are also seen as a product of risk. People become disabled because of risky behaviours; either their own or that of others. Car accidents, drinking, drug taking, climbing, horse riding and other high risk sports are all seen as a major cause of disability. Disabled people are also not meant to take risks and are meant to be risk averse in their everyday lives, they are not meant to voluntarily place themselves in a risky situation. They are supposed to adopt safe and comfortable life styles.

Much public policy for disabled people around, for example access is aimed at reducing the risk to disabled people. Whilst there has been a recent drive to promote access for disabled people in a wide range of activities health and safety fears have traditionally been used to deny disabled people that right. In this paper we draw on a recently completed study into disabled people's access to woodland to examine the way that risk is used by organisations to deny access and by disabled people to promote not just their right to access but also the way that they discuss the enjoyment they get from such access. We use the concept of edgework to examine the contradiction between a public agenda to reduce risk and a private agenda to increase and embrace such risk.