Centre for Critical Psychology and Education

Research Achievements

Around the Toilet Around the Toilet

Around the toilet: Co-creating intersectional understandings of gender, disability and access

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jenny Slater, Sheffield Hallam University

University of Sheffield co-investigator:
Dr. Lisa Procter

Dr. Emily Cuming, University of Leeds

The Project

While toilets are often thought to be a mundane space, for some, a lack of adequate or accessible toilet provision is a crucial practical issue on a daily basis. Disabled people, for example, frequently report that accessible toilets are 'not accessible enough' (there may be too few, or they may be too small for larger wheelchairs, or not have a hoist or changing space). Toilets also often present a stark visual and material enactment of a gender binary (‘the ladies’, ‘the little boys' room') in ways that can be problematic for trans, gender-queer, or non-binary people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

In recognition of the fact that the social issue of toilets is about practical access and personal affect, this project uses arts- and practice-based approaches to experiment with 'toilet talk' as a method of investigating issues of 'access' and 'identity' in relation to gender and disability. While the research and activities will focus around gender and disability, we also seek to consider additional intersections of identity including race, ethnicity, age, religion and faith.

Five research workshops based around the arts practices of reflective storytelling, making/creating and performance, have taken place between April and September 2015, in collaboration with three community partners: Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), Queer of the Unknown (a performing arts collective) and Action for Trans* Health. 

At the closing event for the Around the Toilet project in November 2015, researchers celebrated the provocative, visual and artistic creations produced in these five workshops over the previous seven months. The exhibition space provided by Z-arts in Manchester gave plenty of room to display the ‘Toilet Stories’ created by children at a local primary school, toilet drawings and postcards by artist Smizz, and the alternative toilet symbols created by members of Venture Arts. Visitors could also interact with an installation game designed and built by Masters’ students from the Faculty’s School of Architecture.

In a separate workshop area, creativity continued to flow on the day, thanks to resident artists who helped students to stencil political toilet slogans and designs onto t-shirts and tote bags. A cinema room also offered people attending the event the opportunity to watch a range of activist, artistic and Hollywood depictions of toilets.

Dr Lisa Proctor, Lecturer in Early Childhood Education and co-investigator on the project, said: “The ‘Re-Imagining Toilets’ event brought together toilet activists, community organisations, academics and architects to creatively explore the politics of public toilets, with a particular focus on disability and gender.

“It was an inspiring event which highlighted the importance of public toilets in many people’s everyday lives. Many attendees shared their frustrations of how the persistent undervaluing of public toilets impacts upon their lives in significant ways, particularly in relation to their participation in public life.

“These conversations were inspired through engaging with an activist installation designed and built by architecture students as part of the project, in addition to many other activities including a performance by Queer of the Unknown and T-Shirt making. The day inspired collective ideas for change, which the project team of academics and community partners are now pursuing with event participants.”

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AHRC Connected Communities

Theorising Normalcy & the Mundane

6th Annual International Conference
Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane
(Re)claiming the human: In times of crisis.

Manchester Metropolitan University
25th and 26th July 2016

Normalcy Conference

In their 6th Annual International Conference, the Research Centre for Social Change at Manchester Met hosted an event in association with the Universities of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and the University of Chester to examine the concept of being human, what it means and how labels and categorisations are used to define, defend or resist ‘human’ ways of being.

Keynote speakers included Stephanie Davis (The University of Brighton), Kirsty Liddiard (The University of Sheffield), Esther Ignani (Ryerson University) and Jonathan Harvey (The University of Portsmouth).

Dr Kirsty Liddiard gave a keynote entitled "Sex for me isn't touching a woman, it's looking at her": Politicising the Politics of Pleasure in Precarious Times.

You can read about the conference here, or check out the #Normalcy16 hashtag on Twitter. Alternatively, see the Storify here.

Emotional wellbeing and mental health service for schools

Emotional wellbeing and mental health service for schools

Lead staff members:

Professor Tom Billington and Dr Tony Williams

Evaluation Project photographWe have studied the impact of a pilot project which is delivering a range of services designed to enhance the emotional health and well being of children and young people in a number of schools across Sheffield. The report will be delivered soon.


Sheffield City Council

Big Society?

Big society Photo

Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilites and Civil Society

Principal Investigator:

Dan Goodley

The Project

The aim of this timely and exciting project was to explore the opportunities for disabled people with learning disabilities (LD) to contribute to and benefit from Big Society. The research team, from The University of Sheffield, Manchester Metropolitan University, Northumbria University and The University of Bristol, worked with organisations of/for disabled people, activists and allies to discover how disabled people with LD were participating in their communities, in public services and in social action. The team explored disabled people with LD’s access to social capital and networks of interdependence as well as their social emotional well-being in a context of austerity.

Key findings of the project – including publications, accessible summaries and impact activities – can be found on the blog.

Transforming Disability, Culture and Childhood

Transforming Disability, Culture and Childhood: Local, Global and Transdisciplinary Responses

Principal Investigators:

Professor Dan Goodley
Professor Elizabeth Wood
Professor Tom Billington
Professor Kathryn Ecclestone
Dr. Kirsty Liddiard



Transforming Disability, Culture and Childhood: Local, Global and Transdisciplinary Responses, developed three research strands. Each strand captures a distinct period of the life course (early years, childhood and youth), a particular analytical theme (disability diagnoses, disability dealings, disability discourses) and a specific institutional practice (families/communities, professional practice and policy making). Each strand developed one or more research bids of inter/national and trans-disciplinary significance. The bids reflected on-going concerns at national and global levels, with issues of persistent inequalities for young disabled people and current global policies (e.g. Millennium Goals and EFA goals) that may be reinforcing and fuelling inequalities.

Understanding local constructions of these inequities, particularly cultural variations in how disability is constructed, are the first steps towards informing larger bids that address some of the societal challenges identified by RCUK and Horizon 2020. The ESRC ‘regard transformative research as that which involves pioneering theoretical and methodological innovation. The expectation is that the transformative research call will encourage novel developments of social science enquiry, and support research activity that attracts an element of risk.’ Our projects disrupted and transformed hegemonic understandings of disabled childhoods and young adulthoods. They are novel in the sense that they prioritise the understandings of children and parents themselves and using the work of feminist, poststructuralist and postcolonial theorists to shake up dominant disabling discourses.

Our programme brought together University of Sheffield researchers from the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities and Medicine to consider the ways in which difference and disability are being globally and locally conceptualised; how disability discourses are articulated alongside a discourse of ableism and the extent to which difference is required as a key component of contemporary society. Currently, new forms of meaning making in relation to difference and disability are being devised through, for examples, the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V.5 and the 2011 WHO World Report on Disability. These supranational discourses of disability inform how nation states govern their citizens, structure welfare and influence civil society. Moreover, as we live in affective and vitalist times where normal, ableist, responsible, moral ideas of citizenship are increasingly being produced through policy, political and practitioner discourses, questions are raised about the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ disabled. We require transdisciplinary, local and global responses to these pressing concerns; exemplified by our programme.

For more information, visit the research website


Internally funded by the FSS Transformational Social Science Award.

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