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Liminal lives: non-disabled mothers and the disability world

Katherine Runswick-Cole, Manchester Metropolitan University
Co-author(s): Sara Ryan


In this paper, we set out to review the ways in which non-disabled mothers of disabled children have been portrayed within disability studies and the more broader academic literature. We argue that within disability studies non-disabled mothers of disabled children occupy a liminal position because, although they may not have impairments, they experience forms of disablism. Their experiences can differ markedly from the experiences of mothers of non-disabled children and yet the consequences and outcomes of these experiences, such as developing a 'special competence', is largely overlooked. Mothers can work to effect change on behalf of their children and, in some cases, for disabled people more generally, however, this role of activist mother is largely undervalued. The review of literature presented here leads us to conclude that further research needs to be undertaken exploring and highlighting the ways in which mothers of disabled children negotiate, manage and approach their daily lives, operating within what are described by feminist scholars as oppressive mothering ideologies and disabling environments.

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