The Learning Collaborative: An approach to emancipatory research in disability studies
The debate persists in disability studies about the best ways to learn more about the experience and consequences of disability. Various research approaches have held sway over the years, but a favoured approach at present appears to be emancipatory research. Due to numerous critiques and caveats, emancipatory research has been referred to as an "impossible dream". In this paper we offer a way of satisfying the ideological principles of emancipatory research that upholds the highest standards of evidence and policy relevance. It is derived from continuing quality improvement in health care, and is referred to as the Learning Collaborative. We offer an example of the Learning Collaborative approach as it was used in Ontario Canada to improve accessibility in primary care settings. The Learning Collaborative approach is evaluated against criteria for collaboration in disability studies, and found to embrace many of the principles of emancipatory research, specifically: a focus on barrier removal, consumer-researcher collaborations at every stage, and a focus on the priorities of the disability community. In addition, it adds a level of scientific rigour through the use of evidence-based policy analysis and scoping methodology.