Troubling the Practice of Inclusion and (Re)Homing Disability in Intersectionality: Physical Activity Experiences of Disabled Women with Multiple-Marginalised Identities

   School of Sport and Exercise Science

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  Dr Emma V. Richardson, Dr G Molnar  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Supervisory team

Director of Studies:

Dr Emma V. Richardson, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Worcester


Prof. Győző Molnár, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Worcester

Dr Toni Williams, Durham University


There is an established line of academic research exploring the numerous barriers and facilitators of physical activity (PA) among disabled communities (e.g., Montforte et al., 2021; Nikolajsen et al., 2021; Richardson et al., 2017). Research has also indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent PA ‘reopenings’ disproportionately excludes disabled communities as they experience new challenges to accessible PA as well as an exacerbation of pre-existing barriers (e.g., de Boer et al., 2021; Koopman & Pelletier, 2022; Sport England, 2021). Martin Ginis et al., (2016) argued that to address inequitable access to PA opportunities among disabled groups, scholars must “shift focus from conducting studies that merely describe LTPA (leisure time physical activity) barriers and facilitators to developing and delivering strategies” (p. 478). Now is therefore the opportune moment to set the direction of travel for applied research in this academic space and set an intention for the future development of disability inclusive PA strategies.

At the heart of exclusion in PA is the prevalence of ableism as the norm for practice and behaviour (Adamson et al., 2022). Ableism purports that there is an ‘ideal being’, that is crafted through intersecting, dominant identities regarding gender (male), race (White), sexuality (heteronormative), corporeality (nondisabled), and social class (Campbell, 2009). The hegemony of an ‘ideal being’ marginalises anyone with ‘other’ identities within PA settings such as LGBTQ+ communities (Hargie et al., 2017), women (Coen et al., 2020), people of colour (Dagkas, 2020), disabled people (Richardson et al., 2017), different ethnic groups (Koshoedo, 2015), and low socio-economic strata (Zhang et al., 2021). As people have plural identities, strategies to meaningfully address inequities in PA must look beyond isolated characteristics and appreciate the complex matrix of intersecting identities that may result in multiple levels of discrimination (Crenshaw 2017; Kafer 2013). Whilst there has been a growth in research exploring intersectionality in PA, disability is markedly under-represented compared to other identities (Berghs & Dyson, 2022). Furthermore, society-wide discourses and strategies around equality, diversity, and identity often leave disability as the ‘forgotten group’ (Wolbring & Lilywhite, 2021). Thus, a pertinent and meaningful focus of disability research within intersectionality is the centrality of socially-just approaches to facilitate inclusion in PA settings (Adamson et al., 2022).

The necessity for an intersectional research approach addressing PA inequities is further evident in Sport England’s (2021) 10-year strategy named ‘Uniting the Movement’ which calls for strategies that serves marginalised groups’ equitable PA access. Specifically, this report concludes the existence of “stark inequalities with women, those from ethnically diverse communities, those living in deprived areas, disabled people and people with long term health conditions less likely to be active than others” (Sport England, 2022). Addressing inequities experienced by these groups are a priority within this 10-year national strategy, an effort which the PhD studentship will be a part by (i) strategically developing a new line of applied research situating disability within wider intersectionality discussions and, (ii) informing the creation of resources to bridge the gap between marginalised groups and equitable PA opportunities.

Aims and Objectives

This PhD studentship will address Martin Ginis et al.’s (2016) call to develop and deliver strategies targeting PA inequities among disabled people as well as support target groups identified by Sport England. To heed this call, we will target a particularly significant but, as yet, under-researched group within PA spaces: employees. Employees within PA spaces have extensive influence regarding the degree of inclusion or exclusion consumers experience (Lloyd, 2005). Employees are visual, discursive, and interactive representations of who is/is not welcome in those spaces (Smith Maguire, 2008). Research has highlighted that while employees can be a key source of exclusion to marginalised groups (Neville & Gorman, 2016), they can also be powerful facilitators of inclusive practice that encourage marginalised people to maintain PA across the lifespan (Richardson & Motl, 2020a; Richardson & Motl, 2020b). These individuals may therefore be the crux of the degree to which PA spaces are inclusive, yet this group have received only marginal attention from applied research. Thus, the objective of this PhD studentship is to address PA inequities experienced by disabled women with multiple marginalised identities as those relate to PA employees. To do so, a strategic line of research is proposed with the following aims:

  1. Develop a conceptualisation of disability and intersectionality within PA settings.
  2. Explore what disabled women with multiple-marginalised identities need and want from PA employees regarding inclusion.
  3. Explore PA employees’ needs and wants to support marginalised individuals within their respective job role. This combination of conceptual and empirical foundations will contour a structure from which to create resources, training materials and toolkits that can, thereafter, be disseminated and delivered by the University of Worcester and Sport England to inform inclusive practice of employees within PA settings.

Application Process

To begin the application process for this studentship please go to and click ‘apply now’ next to the project you wish to apply for.

It is expected that applicants will have the following qualifications:

  • A Masters in the area of Sociology of Sport/Exercise/Physical Activity/Disability Studies or equivalent professional experience.
  • A First or Upper Second Honours Degree
  • Applied experienced of working with disabled and/or other marginalised groups.

It is also expected that applicants will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • A sound understanding of and interest in both the project and the wider subject area
  • Experience of relevant research methods and skills
  • Ability to contribute to the research design of the project
  • Proficiency in oral and written English
  • Proficiency in IT relevant to the project, e.g. proficiency in using Microsoft Office.
  • Ability to organise and meet deadlines
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Ability to work with/alongside organisations supporting marginalised communities.
Sociology (32) Sport & Exercise Science (33)

Funding Notes

a tax-free bursary of £15,609 for 3 years
a fee-waiver for 4 years (expectation that full time students complete in 3 years. If student enters year 4, bursary stops but fees are still waived)
a budget to support your direct project costs including dissemination costs


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