Chapter 18. It's What You Do With It That Counts: Disseminating Research About Sex and Relationships Using Reports and Leaflets for People With Learning Disabilities

Ruth Garbutt

Ruth Garbutt holds a PhD in Social Policy from Hull University (UK) and held a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Centre for Disability Studies at Leeds University between 2007 and 2010. Her research interests lie in disability rights, citizenship, emancipatory research, using the arts in research, and sex and relationships. In a recent article (Garbutt, 2009), she argued for the need to make academic research more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Another recent article (Garbutt et al., 2009) was written in collaboration with people with learning disabilities and was written in an accessible style, using easy words and pictures. In this way, Ruth is attempting to challenge the academic community to open up the boundaries of dissemination of research, to include writing for wider audiences, such as people with learning disabilities. She is presently Researcher Training and Development Officer in the Staff and Departmental Development Unit at Leeds University.


How do you write up research in a way that is appropriate for an academic audience, for practitioners, for policymakers, for the general public and also for people with learning disabilities? What kind of language do you use? What medium is appropriate? Do you produce one report or five? These were my dilemmas as an academic researcher working on a collaborative research project with a rights-based grassroots organization in the UK. The research was about the views and experiences of young people with learning disabilities around about sex and relationships (hereafter called the Sex and Relationships Project).


This chapter discusses the nature of a shared methodology called “emancipatory research” that was used within the context of the project. It shows some of the ways in which the products of this research were made accessible by, and for, people with learning disabilities. It explores the rationale for popularizing research in this way. The Sex and Relationships Project (2007–2010) was a collaborative project research project that was led by CHANGE, a leading national voluntary organization, based in Leeds (UK), which fights for the rights of people with learning disabilities. It was in partnership with the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds. The project came about because there had been only small amounts of research undertaken about sex and relationships and people with learning disabilities. The Sex and Relationships Project looked particularly at the views and experiences of young people with learning disabilities.


Talking about sex and relationships: the views of young people with learning disabilities