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‘Nothing about us without us’: Working with disabled people to identify accessible and inclusive ways of evaluating their participation in sport and physical activity

About This PhD Project

Project Description

• Basic Funding details: Full time Home/EU fees and a stipend of £15,009 p.a.
• Application deadline: Tuesday 7th May 2019
• Start date: October 2019
• Duration: 3 years full-time
• Location: Colchester campus, travel as required for stakeholder collaboration
• Lead department: School of Health and Social Care
• Connected department: School of Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences

Overview of the studentship:

In the UK both the health and sport sectors are pushing for increased participation in sport and physical activity, particularly amongst marginalised groups, such as people with a disability or long-term health condition. Research has highlighted the disparity between the wishes of disabled people and their actual engagement in sport and physical activity, with them being less likely to engage in sport and physical activity than the general population (English Federation of Disability Sport 2013). They do not therefore fully experience the benefits that participation has on physical health, mental health and the enhancement of social bonds (Sport England 2016; Department for Culture, Media and Sport 2015). To understand these issues, it is vital to accurately evaluate and measure the physical activity levels and associated health outcomes of marginalised groups. However, current measurement strategies and tools are largely inaccessible to and non-inclusive of people with a disability. For example, the Short Active Lives Survey and the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, which are preferred Sport England tools, focus on time and frequency of walking, riding a bike, and record time spent sitting as a negative. These tools are inappropriate for wheelchair users and fail to explore the physical, mental and social benefits of participation or to identify and record the barriers to participation for people with a disability.
The aim of this project is therefore to develop and test an accessible and inclusive toolkit to assess the physical activity and associated health benefits of people with a disability. This can then be used by researchers, practitioners and policy makers. The project will commence with a literature review of all existing evaluation strategies and tools. It will then utilise a participatory approach by working collaboratively with people with a disability (via organisations such as Sport for Confidence and the national charity Sense) and other relevant stakeholders (for example, those who seek to measure and evaluate physical activity levels and the related health benefits, such as Sport England and Boccia England). This will help to fully understand what is required to meaningfully evaluate their participation in sport and physical activity.

Detailed funding information:

The award consists of a full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (see for further fee details), a doctoral stipend equivalent to the Research Councils UK National Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20), plus £2,500 training bursary via Proficio funding, which may be used to cover the cost of advanced skills training including conference attendance and travel.


Primary supervisor:
Dr Anna Pettican is a lecturer in occupational therapy and also a senior occupational therapist at Sport for Confidence. Her own PhD studies utilised a participatory action research approach to explore the nature and value of participation in a community-based football team for people with mental health problems. Anna is interested in occupational (in) justice, and the theory and practice of inclusive sport.

Dr Valerie Gladwell and Dr Paul Freeman have published over 60 articles in international peer-reviewed journals and they have successfully supervised 12 PhD students to completion. Their work aligns to examine the impact of personal factors and social environment upon cognitions, well-being and behaviour across sport, health and work contexts. They are currently part of the Project Team on the Essex Local Delivery Pilot, which is looking to tackle inequalities that prevent individuals from enjoying an active lifestyle.

Dr Ewen Speed is senior lecturer in medical sociology in School of Health and Social Care. He has published in areas of critical policy studies with particular focus on participation in relation to mental health and health policy. He is interested in changing conceptions of the relation between citizens and the state and how this is manifested in policy practices, such as participation. He has supervised 6 students to successful PhD completion.

Candidates will be asked to provide:
• A covering letter
• CV
• Personal statement
• Transcripts of any undergraduate and/or masters programmes

For more information and details on how to apply please follow this link

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