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Theorising disability: a practical and representative ontology of learning disability

Cluely, Victoria; Fyson, Rachel; Pilnick, Alison


Victoria Cluely

Professor of Language, medicine and Society


This article contributes to the ongoing development of the theorisation of learning disability, focusing on the value of the ontological turn. We argue that while social theory has influenced understandings of disability within academia, particularly within disability studies, it has had a limited impact on the discursive and practical use of the term ‘learning disability’. How ‘learning disability’ is constructed is of direct consequence to the lives of people with learning disabilities. Owing to this, we present a practical and representative ontology of learning disability in order to progress the ontological turn into everyday understandings of disability. To do this, disability theory is discussed, critically appraised and progressed. We then outline how this new theorisation could be re-contextualised within policy, with a view to further re-contextualisation into practice and the everyday. It is hoped that this article will spark discussion regarding how the ontological turn can be used for change.


Cluely, V., Fyson, R., & Pilnick, A. (2019). Theorising disability: a practical and representative ontology of learning disability. Disability and Society, 35(2), 235-257.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 12, 2019
Online Publication Date Jul 9, 2019
Publication Date Jul 9, 2019
Deposit Date Jun 17, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 10, 2021
Journal Disability & Society
Print ISSN 0968-7599
Electronic ISSN 1360-0508
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 35
Issue 2
Pages 235-257
Keywords Disability theory; learning disability; ontological turn; critical disability studies
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Disability and Society on 09/07/2019, available online:


Theorising learning disability manuscript 2nd revision for resubmision FINAL (856 Kb)

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