RESEARCH: Disability, Chronic illness, Twitter and Academia

This research notice was submitted to the blog by one of our regular twitter discussants, @JonMendel.

I’m starting a research project looking at questions around disability, chronic illness, Twitter and academia – and I’d really appreciate any contributions to the development of my research questions and then, subsequently, to interviews and group discussions.

Who am I?

I’m a Geography lecturer at Dundee University and I’m interested in online spaces and communities.[1] I’m also interested in issues around accessibility and disability in academia – both as a teacher, and due to having invisible disabilities myself.

What’s the research project?

I’ve been struck by how quickly discussions around disability, chronic illness, postgrad study and academia have developed on Twitter recently (especially around the #AcademicAbleism hashtag).

I’d like to know more about how and why this is happening, and to draw on Twitter discussions to make my own teaching more accessible.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about some broad questions to ask. I’ll list the questions I was considering about below, but I’d also appreciate it if people could let me know what issues around this you think are important – if there are other exciting things I should be looking at, or if I’m missing something here, please tell me!

The questions I’ve been considering are:

  • How does social media use influence disabled/chronically ill students’ understanding of their environment, support services and curricula?
  • How does social media use influence disabled/chronically ill students’ engagement with learning?

As well as these questions, I’m hoping to draw on this research and on broader Twitter discussions to develop a better understanding of accessible ways to do my own teaching.

How will I research this?

Firstly, any suggestions around my planned focus will be really helpful in developing a project that addresses (some of) the questions that matter.

I’ll then be asking if for participants in a survey and in discussions about social media, disability, chronic illness and academia.

Additionally, I’ll be observing public Twitter discussions on this topic (though all use of this material will be robustly anonymised before use, unless people explicitly agree to being quoted, and I’ll avoid drawing on discussions in what are more likely to be viewed as private spaces unless people explicitly consent to this).

I’m planning to use this project to improve the postgrad class I teach on academic writing and as part of the assessed work for a postgrad teaching module I’m taking myself. I’m also aiming to write this research up as a journal article.

If you would like to discuss what I’m planning – or participate a survey, interviews or discussions once I’ve got these started – I’d love to hear from you. You can e-mail me on or tweet me @JonMendel.[2]


This project has gone through the ethical approval process in Geography at Dundee University.

You’re free to choose not to take part, and you can stop participation in any part of this project at any time and for any reason.

Participants in organised group discussions and in surveys will be anonymised. I’m very much aware that Twitter is an important space for many and I really don’t want to disrupt that – if you would rather I didn’t look at aspects of these discussions, or would prefer that I just don’t do research in this space, please tell me and I will respect that.

Thanks for reading this far, and for any help you are able to give me with this!

[1] I’ve written about this here, among other places

[2] My OpenPGP public key is here if you’d like to encrypt your e-mail to me. If another discussion medium would work better for you, I’ll be happy to make adjustments. You can also ring me on 01382 385083 or write to me at the address here to help get things set up

Image: ‘Research at the Beach‘ by julochka (flickr), licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.


One response to “RESEARCH: Disability, Chronic illness, Twitter and Academia

  1. Hello, something is not really clear to me. Will people be contributors (not participants) to your research or how will their contribution be acknowledged?


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