New long-term research program to reimagine disability

HabiTec is one of the Griffith University research projects that looks to make a positive difference for people living with disability.

Griffith University is reimagining an inclusive future for people with disabilities by launching a major new long-term research initiative.

Professor Elizabeth Kendall.

Reimagining Disability: Creating Inclusive Futures is a university-led, collaborative alliance between key research, design, education, industry and healthcare organisations that will look to solve the most pressing real-world challenges for people living with disabling neurological conditions.

Director Professor Elizabeth Kendall said the program aims to deliver bold and life-changing innovations for people with neurological conditions, including those associated with developmental delay, injury, illness or degeneration of the brain and spinal cord across the lifespan.

“People with disabilities still experience an unacceptable risk of homelessness, unemployment, physical inactivity, social isolation and poor health,” Professor Kendall said.

“To solve these challenges, research needs to be driven by end users. Previously, a lot of research has happened without really involving those who are most impacted.

“We want to engage with people who have experience of disability, working together to create solutions to the challenges that impact their quality of life.”

BioSpine is another project included in the research program.

According to ABS data from 2019, almost 40 per cent of Australians live with either a disability or a disabling chronic health condition.

“Around 10 per cent of Australians provide full-time care for someone with a disability, although this is likely to be significantly underestimated,” Professor Kendall said.

“With such a high level of demand, there has never been a better time to develop innovative solutions and approaches to the way people think about disability and rehabilitation.”

Professor Kendall said the research program will champion researchers with disability and forge collaboration across all disciplines and with key partners in the community, healthcare and industry.

Reimagining Disability aims to get the public talking about disability through thought-provoking questions.

“We want to redesign the way research is done so it is inclusive, and to do that we need researchers with lived experience working on new cutting-edge approaches,” she said.

“At Griffith, we have a long tradition of disability research and many excellent researchers — including PhD students, undergraduate students and citizen scientists — who live with disability, and by collaborating we will really be able to make a difference.”

The program will break down walls between academic disciplines including science, technology, health, law, business and creative arts industries to capitalise on their combined knowledge, and translate it into effective innovative designs, rehabilitation practices, policy and services.

“It’s about building a culture that values disability and recognises its impact on so many Australians,” Professor Kendall added.

Recent projects driven by Griffith University researchers with disability include BioSpine, Ballet for Brain Injury, The Dignity Project and HabITec.