Representation in the digital era: Democratic consequences of changing engagement in the Swedish disability movement

Project: Research

Project Details


The disability movement is a core part of democracy where disabled people can influence issues that affect them. However, membership has steadily declined in disability rights organisations, while engagement in online spaces has increased – a general tendency in civil society which has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. With fewer and increasingly older members traditional organisations’ democratic legitimacy in advocacy is challenged. The overall aim of this project is to analyse the changing forms of participation in disability rights advocacy and
its effects on democratic legitimacy. Our research questions concern three themes:

1. Digitalisation
a. How are traditional disability organisations dealing with increased demands for digitalisation during the pandemic and in the long term?
b. Why do people choose to engage online rather than in traditional disability organisations?
c. What commonalities and differences in communication, activities and policy issues can be seen between traditional organisations and online spaces?

2. Representation
a. How are traditional disability organisations working on issues concerning representation in relation to declining membership and the generational divide?
b. How can representation be understood in online spaces?
c. Which groups are represented and misrepresented from an intersectional perspective?

3. Deliberation
a. How are internal democratic processes constructed and evolving in traditional disability organisations in the wake of digitalisation and decreasing membership?
b. How can deliberation be understood in online spaces?
c. Which groups are included and excluded from an accessibility perspective?

Data and methods comprise:
1. A survey to national disability organisations (in collaboration with Begripsam)
2. Case studies of local disability organisations
3. An analysis of online, non-traditional engagement

We thereby hope to analyse changing democratic structures, and experiences of consequences for influence and participation for persons with disability.
Effective start/end date2022/07/012025/06/30

Collaborative partners

  • Lund University (lead)
  • Malmö University: Department for social work (Joint applicant)
  • Center for Clinical Research Dalarna (Project partner)
  • Begripsam


  • Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (Forte)

UKÄ subject classification

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
  • Social Work