On April 11, 2017, some of the most prominent researchers in the field of disability and disability services attended the Joint Research Forum “Community Planning and Inclusive Services – Perspectives for European Research Activities”. The event was co-initiated by the Centre for Planning and Evaluation of Social Services (ZPE), University of Siegen and the European Association of Services providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD). One of the main outcomes of the meeting is the commitment to initiate a European research platform for inclusive community planning and service development for people with disabilities.
Innovation and science-based research is essential for development and planning of inclusive community services for persons with disabilities. However, despite having significant research needs, the disability sector in Europe still faces numerous challenges in benefitting from research and innovation.
The Joint Research Forum, which was hosted by ZPE and EASPD in Brussels, aimed to bring together academic researchers and practitioners in the field of inclusive disability services and to explore how research and innovation in support provision could be strengthened in Europe.
The first part of the discussion was centred around the results of the report produced by EASPD on the research needs in disability services, entitled ‘EASPD Research Agenda in Disability Services’. The report aimed to identify topics that, according to European service providers, need to be pursued by future research to improve or facilitate disability services. The report received an overall positive feedback and was welcomed by the participants of the Forum as an important and useful tool that highlights major topics for the future European research agenda.
As pointed out by James Crowe, President of EASPD, “the sector of support services for persons with disabilities has significant research needs and there is already a lot of research done on certain topics, such as deinstitutionalision, in different countries and languages. The real challenge is, however, in translating this knowledge into practice and in making the research outcomes available for a wider community of researchers and practitioners”.
In the second part of the discussion, participants of the Forum explored the idea of setting up a European collaboration platform of researchers, users, service providers and other relevant stakeholders in the field of community planning and service development. The discussion has become the first step towards developing the future ‘European research platform for inclusive community planning and service development for people with disabilities.’
As per Dr Lisa Waddington of the University of Maastricht, “such a platform has a big potential and it could be strengthened with the participation of persons with disabilities in it.”
Dr Miguel Angel Verdugo of the University of Salamanca, who also attended the Forum said that “the platform will help to bring together like-minded researchers, to improve the sharing of research outcomes among them, and to build closer cooperation between researchers and services”.
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